Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Magnificent Seven? 2012 French Open - Rafa Round 1

(Playing Pretty In Pink!)

Ladies and Gentlemen, Our Hero, Rafael Nadal, has begun his quest for a record seventh French Open title this week. He looks to be in great physical and mental shape and he is he favorite coming in to the tournament. Being the favorite doesn't always mean much. Serena was the favorite on the women's side and she sadly was bounced in the first round. Shocking! This year Rafa is back wearing a pink shirt and pink shoelaces as part of his ensemble. The last time he wore pink here was the only year he lost. The superstitious fool in me is wondering what the superstitious fool in him is thinking. Maybe he truly doesn't care, but it makes me NERVOUS.

Luckily his first round match did not prove a horrible challenge for him. He took out Simone Bolelli of Italy 6-2, 6-2, 6-1. Rafa raced out to a 6-2, 4-0 lead and then suddenly lost a little focus. It can happen when playing a long match, especially when your opponent is not really threatening you. Bolelli broke Rafa during that lapse and them held serve. Then he had 4 break point chances to bring it to 4-3 on Rafa's next service game, Bolelli couldn't convert them though, and Rafa held. Then Nadal just ran away with the rest of it. One match down, six to go until he is Champion once more!

Next up he gets Denis Istomin from Uzbekistan. Shouldn't present a big challenge, but I'm sure Rafa will take nothing for granted. As the saying goes, you can't win a Grand Slam in the first week, but you can definitely lose it. I believe Rafa will persevere! VAMOS!

The Les Miserables Movie: The Dream May Live, But Is All Hope Lost?

(the soundtrack of my life, whether I like it or not)

I'm not sure how I feel about the Les Miserables movie coming out. On the one hand, judging by the first trailer alone, it looks kinda awesome. I like the cast. It looks beautilful. It's hard to mess up the songs. In theory, I should really enjoy it. I remind myself that I was also looking forward to Phantom of The Opera and Nine and both of those were disasters. Still, I have faith in this production. So on the one hand, hooray for a good movie adaptation! On the other hand, will there ever be a time in my life when I get these effing songs out of my head??

I don't know what it is about the Les Mis score. Is it the lush, romantic, classic melodies that pretty much anybody can sing if they want to, but that a really talented singer can just kill? Is the scope of the story and the rich characters? The show's been around for 25 years now, and lets say the songs have been locked in my brain for at least 20 of them. I sang Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, Stars, Bring Him Home and Drink with Me a lot in vocal lessons through college. Then other songs and shows knocked it out of rotation in my brain for a while, but then in my late 20's it all came surging back without my consent. I found myself singing through the score at the randomest of times. Like the WHOLE SCORE. I don't even have the full score on my iPod, I would just sing it to myself from memory. Then the need to sing it started dying down a bit again, but then that 25th Anniversary Concert came out on PBS and my brain was once again lost to me. I didn't become obsessed with watching the concert (though I did have it saved on my DVR for a long time) because Nick Jonas's limited vocal ability and horrible breath support really ruined Marius for me, but once again the soundtrack was on heavy rotation in my brain. I had almost -ALMOST - gotten over it again, and now come the movie trailer is here. The advertising for the movie means I'll be singing the songs to myself at least through the end of the year since it doesn't open until Christmas. And then what if it's actually really good and gets nominated for Oscars??? That will stretch things until March! And then if I like the move, what then? Will I breakdown and buy it on Blu-Ray? Will I watch it whenever I have to clean my living room, or go through my billing statements or fold my laundry - like I do with Kill Bill, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Chicago, LOTR and Aliens? The songs will never go away. The movie means I have no hope. Why even try to fight it? It's not worth it. Life has killed the dream I dreamed of not singing "I Dreamed a Dream" to myself forever and ever.

For the record, the song I sing to myself the most is the short but sweet "Every Day" between Marius and Cosette. It's like the show is speaking directly to me: With all the years ahead of us, I will never go away and we will be together everyday...

Friday, May 25, 2012

Sleep Well, Awake.

(goodbye, show!)

I wanted to give a shout out to a little show called "Awake" that aired on NBC that I and approximately five other people across the country watched. The ratings were abysmal and no one I knew ever mentioned watching it, but I thought it was very good. It starred Jason Issacs, who I enjoy very much, and had a very strong supporting cast of actors you would know from several well-known shows, including Laura Innes, Cherry Jones, Steve Harris, Wilmer Valderamma, Kevin Weisman, B.D Wong, and the kid who played Jack's son in the Sideways World of Lost. All really strong performances. I'm sorry the show didn't find a larger audience, but then again, it was on NBC, so the odds were against it.

The basic premise was that Detective Britten (Isaacs) and his wife and teenage son were in a horrible car accident, after which Britten found himself living in two realities. One where his wife had died and one in where his son had died. Whenever he fell asleep in one reality he would wake up in the other. This way, he didn't lose either of them completely but was also always mourning one of them. They tinted the son's world green and the wife's word red, so you could keep track of where the hell he was at any given time. Britten's two lives grew increasingly divergent, and harder for him to maintain, but case details that showed up in one world helped him solve cases in the other. They also led Britten to unravel a conspiracy in his own police department that was actually the cause of his car crash. It was an intriguing concept for a show, well-executed and acted, and I assume it was a bitch of a show to write. You essentially had to have two different crimes every week that were not the same but had similar themes and locations so that Britten could take details from one reality and apply them to the case in the other. All this plus the family drama had to happen in the course of roughly 44 minutes of show. Nicely done, Series Creator Kyle Killen. Your team got it done.

The essential mystery behind the two universes was wrapped up in the season (now, series) finale. One world was always going to be "reality" and one was be a dream world he'd constructed for himself, and the way it played out felt earned. The premise for what would've been Season 2 was a hopeful spin on the dream world dilemma, but again, with this season finale, it felt like a complete story was told and the show didn't end off on some horrible cliffhanger or unresolved reasoning. There were still things left to think about and a path forward for the characters, but I as a viewer (one of the few!) didn't feel cheated.

Well played, Awake! No go take a nice long nap. You've earned it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Rafa's Road to Paris Leads Through Rome!

(Rafa and Rome: Two great tastes that taste great together!)

It's been a very rainy week here in NYC. It's been SEVERAL rainy weeks here in NYC, to be honest. Luckily, the weekends have been gorgeous, but the weekdays have been downpours. One thing that made this past Monday a little less soggy and gloomy was the fact that Our Hero, Rafael Nadal, won the Rome Masters Event over his most-recent greatest rival Novak Djokovic. Such news was brighter than sunshine!

Rafa took the championship match 7-5, 6-3. It was sweet revenge as Novak beat Rafa here last year. The win did a number of other things as well. It further reversed the trend of Rafa losing Finals to Novak. After having a dismaying 0-7 Final Record against Novak spanning back from 2011 (and including three Grand Slam Finals) Rafa has now beaten Novak 2 Finals in a row - Monte Carlo and Rome. Monte Carlo was an important test for Rafa, to be sure, but Novak was so emotionally and physically drained from the passing of his beloved grandfather, it wasn't the best indicator of what their match up on clay would look like in 2012. This convincing win gives Rafa the edge again on red clay. Physically and mentally he looks fantastic and is definitely in prime position to win his 7th French Open in the coming two weeks. 

It also bumped Rafa back up to No. 2 in the rankings, after Federer briefly climbed past him for winning Madrid last week on the blue clay. That will put him back as the No. 2 seed at the French. Open. Having him be the third seed when he's won the tournament 6 out of the last 7 years would be sorta absurd.

Winning the Rome Masters also makes Rafa the most winningest player at Masters 1000 events, now having won 21 tournaments - 1 more than Federer. He's cut into Novak's lead in the points race to No. 1 as well. He won't be able to overtake him at Rolland Garros, since Rafa won last year and has to win to defend all his points. Unless Novak falls unexpectedly early, he will probably retain all his points from the tournament this year as well as a former semi-finalist.

Still this has been a very good week to be a Rafa fan, basking in the glory of his victory as the heavens upon up around us. I wish him so much success next week in Paris. I hope he makes history winning his 7th trophy there. VAMOS!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Community: Season 3 Report Card

(Dear Community, Have a great summer! C U next year!)

So the Third Season of Community has come to a close. There was a time it seemed doubtful to us ardent fans that NBC would even air the back end of the season. But then they did! And then they renewed it for a 13 episode 4th Season! And then they fired the show's creator, Dan Harmon, and most of the creative team left. WHAAAT? It makes almost no sense. Why keep a low-rated, but creatively rich show if you are just going to replace the people who supply the creative vision? What do you actually have left at that point? The actors, sure, but they don't write the scripts. I can't even imagine what such an offbeat show will be like in different hands. If they were planning to gut the creative side, they probably should've just cancelled the series and gone with one of their new pilots. Regardless of how fans feel about it the show in one form or another is coming back next fall on Fridays. Time will tell what it will actually consist of plot-wise. In the meantime, let's reflect on the just completed Season 3 - which turned out to be a very strong season. There were a few growing pains right at the beginning, and then again after it came back from hiatus, but the highs here were super high and definitely outnumbered the lows. And the end was incredibly satisfying, so I'm grateful it aired at all. Let's take a look back and see what this year's grades were. 

Biology 101 - The study group takes Biology together, but Pierce is odd-man-out when only six seats are available in the class. Pierce gets in when Professor Kane kicks Jeff out for cell phone use, but Jeff gets back in when Star Burns tries to start a Breaking Bad-style meth deal with Professor Kane. On the administrative side, Dean Felton and Vice Dean Laybourne are at odds over the Air Conditioning Repair Annex. The school does a song and dance number promising to be less weird! (Nice try!) Jeff gets gassed in the school air vents and wields a fire axe against their study table. Britta starts her arc as a Psych Major. The Doctor Who-ian "Inspector Spacetime" takes the place of Cougar Town in Abed's imagination. Michael K. Williams and John Goodman join the recurring cast as Professor Kane and Vice Dean Laybourne respectively!  It's good to have our gang back on TV. Grade: B+

Geography of Global Conflict - Annie finds scholastic competition from another girl named Annie almost too much to handle and then a Model UN competition causes strife for all. Campus Security Officer Chang emerges for a season-long arc of craziness and authoritarianism. Annie and Jeff start to deal with their awkward attraction to each other, but don't come to any real conclusions about it. It was a decent outing, but the Parks and Rec Model UN episode also from this season was way funnier. Grade: B

Competitive Ecology - The gang pairs off in science class to build a terrarium, but then they argue about their pairings all night long. Chang acts out the fantasy of being a Noir-style detective. Todd is introduced as a recurring seemingly benevolent student at Greendale. I love to hate Todd, but the gang is spending a lot of time each episode reminding each other how much they mean to each other. Out loud. We get it! They mean a lot to each other! Grade: B

Remedial Chaos Theory - Reality splinters with the rolling of a die at Troy and Abed's housewarming party. Parallel universes spring forth showing the different effects on the study group when each character is chosen to go to the door to get their pizza delivery. An evil troll doll starts a fire. Evil Abed is born. Jeff hits his head on the ceiling fan a lot and then loses an arm. Britta gets purple highlights. But not in the Prime universe. In the prime universe Britta, and the rest of the gang just gets to sing along to Roxanne and eat pizza. It's truly amazing. Even in the darkest of timelines.  Grade: A+

Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps - Britta does a psych eval on the group that reveals there is a sociopath among them. The gang tells scary stories to reveal who has the most warped mind. It turns out they all do! There are lots of shenanigans in a cabin including vampires, the rapture, and troy and Abed's stomachs getting sewn together. In the end, when Britta finally scans the tests correctly it's discovered Abed is the only sane one. This episode is a lot of fun, but last Halloween with the zombies was just a little more super amazing by comparison. Grade: A

Advanced Gay - Pierce throws a party to celebrate the success of Hawthorne Wipes in the gay community, but the "Gay Bash" turns uncomfortable and then deadly when Pierce's dad shows up and Jeff works out his Daddy Issues on him until he croaks. Also Vice Dean Layborne continues to make a play for Troy's soul in the Air Conditioning Annex. This one is a rare example of Community falling flat in execution. Even a guest appearance by drag queen Shangela could save it. Grade: C

Studies In Modern Movement - The Study Group helps Annie move in with Troy and Abed, except for Jeff who bails on helping them, and then gets blackmailed into spending the day with the Dean at the mall. Annie later struggles dealing with Troy and Abed's immature living habits and not having enough personal space. The guys eventually rally to make her feel better. The Dreamatorium is introduced. We learn the Dean's first name is Craig. Jeff and the Dean sing a stirring karaoke version of "Kiss From A Rose" in front of a green screen. Who could ask for anything more? Grade: A

Documentary Filmmaking: Redux - Dean Pelton has to film a new commercial for Greendale with little money and Abed films all the behind the scenes action for his own documentary. Everything and Everyone goes crazy. It's an amazing spoof of the doc Hearts of Darkness. Luis Guzman shows up. The Dean sends everything out of control and production goes well over time and budget. Abed eventually saves the day cutting his behind the scenes footage into an acceptable commercial. Troy and Britta discover they enjoy each other's huggies. I'm not doing the brilliant madness of this episode any justice in this recap. Just go watch it. Grade: A+

Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism - Jeff and Shirley take on some losers who monopolize the foosball table, only to realize they share a scarring childhood memory of playing against each other as kids. Annie breaks Abed's special edition DVD of The Dark Knight. She tries to make it look like a robbery, causing Abed to dress like Batman and find the villain who did it. Seeing Jeff and Shirley as youngsters together is amazing. Seeing adult Jeff and Shirley locked in an anime cartoon  foosball battle is also amazing. Abed as Batman is always fun. I mostly love the deepening of the Jeff and Shirley friendship. They are the best. Grade: A-

 Regional Holiday Music - An instant classic. After Greendale's Glee Club has a collective mental breakdown, the malevolent choir director lures the Study Group into replacing them for the Christmas Pageant, brainwashing them one by one with Christmas-themed songs. Abed is the first to be turned, and helps recruit the others, but when it becomes clear to him this performance isn't a one shot deal, he manages to break them out of it before it's too late. The choir director, (played by one of my current SNL fav's Taran Killam) is revealed to have caused the bus accident that killed the original Glee Club members back in Season 2. He flees, and Christmas is saved. All of the songs in this episode are amazing. Annie as Betty Boop Santa rocks. Britta as a non-singing and then a singing tree is hilarious. Shirley singing "Happy Birthday, Jesus! Cut the cake, my lord!" doesn't go on long enough.  The Inspector Spacetime Christmas Special we are shown is great in its badness. We'll see these guys again after Regionals. And a long NBC-controlled hiatus. Falalalala Falalalala, Hollah! Grade: A+

Urban Matrimony and the Sandwich Arts - Andre re-proposes to Shirley. Britta is revealed to be an amazing wedding planner which depresses the hell out of her. Jeff must write a toast to Shirley and it doesn't go well for him. Troy and Abed attempt to become "normal" for the wedding, freaking everyone out. Pierce and Shirley try to get a new sandwich shop installed in the cafeteria, but Greendale takes their idea and moves forward with a Subway franchise instead. Andre and Shirley remarry. This was the first episode back after that horribly long hiatus and expectations were probably too high. Still, it was great to see the Study Group again! Grade: B

Contemporary Impressionists - The Study Group helps Abed get rid of debt by impersonating various celebrities at a bar mitzvah. Jeff begins experiencing extreme narcissism. This one had the potential for some very funny set-ups but they never really materialized and the idea of Abed having impersonator debts didn't really work for me. This begins the Rift arc in Troy and Abed's friendship. We should also take note of the Moby impersonator that looks an awful lot like the Dean. He may come back sometime in the future...
Grade: B-

Digital Exploration of Interior Design (Part 1) - The Subway shop finally opens in the cafeteria. Shirley, Pierce, and Britta attempt to bring it down, until Britta falls in love with the human embodiment of the corporation. Britta and corpo-human Subway have such kinky sex that the Company has him rebooted into a new human body that doesn't want Britta. Annie and Jeff have a mini-adventure involving a locker Jeff never knew he had, and a boy named Kim that Jeff never remembers meeting. Vice Dean Laybourne uses The Rift between Abed and Troy to win Troy over to the AC Annex by ruining their friendship for good. Troy and Abed take over the school with competing blanket and pillow forts. The dual construction projects lead Greendale to Civil War! To be continued! Grade: A

Pillows and Blankets (Part 2) -  Presented in the style of the Ken Burns' documentary, The Civil War, the school splits between Troy's Blanketsburg and Abed's Pillow Town. Jeff first tries to prolong the fight to avoid studying and later tries to negotiate a truce between his friends. Annie sets up a treatment center for pillow fight victims. Britta tries to take documentary photos and fails badly. Shirley and Pierce head to the front lines. Eventually the war ends and Troy and Abed reconcile. The Changlorious Basterds are introduced to the school as Chang's pre-teen death squad. This is a very solid and funny episode, and if you know Ken Burns's documentary than it's even more enjoyable, but the thing that kinda leaves it slightly unsatisfying for me is that the storytelling and POV between parts 1 and 2 are so vastly different. I feel like they both should've been done in doc style or neither of them. But it's just a stylistic quibble. Grade: A

Origins of Vampire Mythology - When the carnival comes into town, bringing Britta's carney ex-boyfriend Blade with it, she needs Anne to keep her away from him. She hides out with Annie at the apartment while Abed and Troy unhelpfully watch Blade. Vice Dean Laybourne recruits Dean Pelton to lure Troy to the Air Conditioning Repair Annex, but he fails miserably in his half-hearted attempt. Jeff becomes obsessed with learning Blade's secret of being irresistible, annoying Shirley in the process. Change and Pierce become short-lived best friends at the carnival. Britta eventually realizes she shouldn't be into guys who are mean to her, and should maybe be into a guy who likes her a lot, like Troy. I didn't think Blad was all that special. Grade: B-

Virtual Systems Analysis - After their biology test is postponed, the gang splits up for the afternoon. Annie accompanies Abed for some some quality time in the Dreamatorium, while Troy and Britta going on a lunch date. While "rendering" an adventure with Inspector Spacetime, Annie confronts Abed about his true feelings about himself and their friends, and Abed in turn forces her to examine her feelings for Jeff. The Dreamatorium effects were unusual and rad, and the look into both Abed and Annie's way of thinking was entertaining and enlightening. Grade: A

Basic Lupine Urology - The Law & Order episode. The Study Group investigates the death of the yam they were growing as a science project, suspecting sabotage from a classmate. Shirley, Abed and Troy are the cops. Annie and Jeff are the Lawyers. Todd is the main suspect. The detail work in this is impeccable. I could write about it for two hours and still not be done praising it. From the re-orchestrated theme song to the end of episode ominous phone call, this is Community at it's referential best. Grade A++

Course Listing Unavailable - The Study Group deals with the death of their drug-dealing classmate Star Burns. Britta acts as a grief counselor, with little positive effect. Chang ramps up his campaign to the Dean for to increased policing powers. The memorial service for Star Burns turns into a riot, instigated in part by the incendiary rants of the Study Group. Chang's Changlorious Basterds attack the student body, the Dean gets replaced by a body double (Fake Moby from Contemporary Impressionists!) and the Study Group becomes known as the Greendale Seven and are expelled from school. This is a solid episode with a lot of plot that moves well.  Grade: A-

Curriculum Unavailable - After the Study Group is expelled, Abed believes the Dean is an impostor. When he is caught on campus dressed as Inspector Spacetime, Abed is forced to get psychiatric treatment from Dr. Heidi (John Hodgeman) and the rest of the Study Group accompanies him. This is a "clip show" episode with cut scenes to events that we've never seen before. Dr. Heidi tries to convince the group that Greendale doesn't exist, and that they are all mental patients under a shared psychosis. The montage of the group in a mental hospital imagining they are at school is priceless. Eventually they realize Dr. Heidi is a fake, and that the real Dean loves them and would never expel them. Dr. Heidi finally admits that Chang has the Dean captive and has taken over the school. The Study Group vows to free him. Grade: A

Digital Estate Panning - Somewhat out of plot sequence, Pierce and the Study Group visit Hawthorne Enterprises to discuss the issue of Pierce's inheritance with his father's former assistant, Gilbert Lawson. They must all play an 8-bit video game created by Pierce's father and if Pierce doesn't make it to the end first, he will lose his inheritance. Once inside, the group realizes that Gilbert is really Pierce's half-brother and is intent on beating Pierce and claiming the inheritance for himself. Everything about this episode is amazing. The majority of the action takes place in the 8-bit world and follows the visuals and plot of an old school side-scrolling RPG. Like with the Law and Order episode, the detail work is impeccable. The story is both incredibly funny and sweet. The 8-bit avatars of the group are adorable. Abed finds love in the 8-bit form of a character named Hilda. The racist elements of the game as designed by Pierce's racist dad are appropriately wrong and hilarious. This is another episode that must be seen to be believed. Grade: A++

First Chang Dynasty - The Study Group plans to rescue the Dean - Ocean's Eleven-style. An elaborate heist! While Chang becomes distracted planning a big birthday par-tay for himself, the gang dons elaborate costumes worthy of the Dean himself and infiltrates the school. At first it looks like they are busted by Chang, but it's an intentional fake out, until they are actually busted by Chang. Troy sells his soul to the Air Conditioning Repair Annex to free them in time to stop Chang from blowing up the school with illegal fireworks and a key-tar. Chang's scheme is exposed and he flees the school. The Dean takes back control and the Greendale Seven are vindicated, but Troy must leaves his friends for the waiting arms of Vice Dean Laybourne. They wrapped all that up rather nicely, I'd say. Grade: A-

Introduction to Finality - Story Arc Resolution for all! After a legal squabble, Shirley and Pierce open their Greendale sandwich shop! Jeff bests his former colleague,who once turned him in to his law firm, aces his Biology final and starts searching for his Absentee Dad! Britta sticks with her psych major! Vice Dean Laybourne dies and Troy becomes the Repair Man Messiah! Abed vanquishes Evil Abed. Annie... is doing fine! Abed takes down the Dreamatorium so that Troy can have his own room, but keeps a phonebooth sized version for himself! #sixseasonsandamovie. If this had to be a series finale - and from an original creative standpoint it certainly is - this ended on a very satisfying note. Grade: A

So that's all there is, until there is more! It was a very productive school year for the Greendale Seven. We'll have to see what course they all take together next year. If the show is nothing like it was in the first three seasons, at least there will be the theme song, appropriately titled, "At Least It Was Here."

Monday, May 14, 2012

Reality Competition Show Winner Round Up: Survivor Edition

(She is rich!)
As the official 2011-2012 TV season comes to a close, I realize that I continue to watch a lot of Reality Competition Shows and these shows keep crowning winners. So let's take some time this May to review! I'll start with the most recent victor first and work my way backwards (and then forwards) from there.

Sunday night concluded the 24th edition of Survivor. It was a battle of the sexes called Survivor: One World. That meant it was two different tribes in one camp. It also meant that every time someone said "One World" I immediately thought of the racial tolerance song from California Dreams which has been in the back of my mind for roughly 20 years. Thanks to the many blessings of youtube, you can witness what I'm referring to for yourselves.

Wasn't that amazing? If only the tribe dynamics in this season of Survivor were that entertaining. Unfortunately this was kind of a ho hum season. I mean, Samoa AGAIN? Is this not like the 5th time in like 6 seasons they've been in Samoa? The show could use a change of scenery. I'm very much looking forward to the Philippines next year. I think that's gonna be a beautiful backdrop for the competition. Still, this season there were a few interesting twists and turns. The women were terrible at the beginning, but somehow they got it together and the men totally imploded. Calling the shots through the whole thing was Kim Spradlin, a 29 year old bridal shop owner from Texas who dominated all her competitors - in the nicest way possible! The Survivor mantra is Outwit, Outplay, Outlast and Kim was a pro at all of these things. Everyone trusted everything she said, she called the shots strategically, and she won 4 individual immunity competitions so that the others could never take the opportunity to get her out. She even had a hidden immunity idol she never needed to use. I was consistently impressed with her composure and her not being nasty, self-centered or entitled.

She had a good plan, a warm presence and a lot of conviction. She didn't betray her core alliance even though she could've ditched them right at the end for less formidable players heading into the final tribal council. Her solid thinking and cool head didn't make her the flashiest player, perhaps, but her winning the season was incredibly satisfying. Plus, she was popular enough with the masses that she won Fan Favorite as well, so she got $1,100,000 for all her efforts. Well played, Kim! You're a survivor. You went and made it!

Rafa Gets Smurfed in Madrid

(The slippery slope of converting to blue clay.)

Ahh, blue clay. Looks pretty on camera, no doubt. But after a week of controversy, and a lot of negativity and early exits from the game's top players, will we ever see it again? I wonder. I feel like the safety of the players should be paramount, not making the ball clearer for those watching on a TV screen. If they wanted to change to blue clay, why didn't they start fixing the courts well in advance so that people could play on them and adjust the court composition as needed? It just seems weird and rushed to me. I feel like I've been following the blue clay drama for a while, but the details and thought process behind the necessity for the change happening right now still seems muddled. Or maybe it's clear enough and I just don't think it was worth it.

The week in Madrid saw uncharacteristically early exits from both Our Hero, Rafeal Nadal, and World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, both of whom faced off in last year's final. Rafa suffered an astonishing collapse to Verdasco in the third round and Nole lost to Tipsarevic in the quarters. It was one of the rare times when I was actually frustrated with Rafa. I'm sure the court conditions were frustrating, but I felt like he (and Novak) just didn't want to be there. Usually competing and winning is most important to them and the way they went out, I felt like on at least a subconscious level, they just didn't want to be there. Demonstrating how bad the blue clay was seemed more important than winning the tournament on the surface. This was not a preoccupation for Federer, who won the tournament and moved passed Nadal to be ranked No. 2 in the world. With No. 1 ranking back in his sights.

Now we have already moved on to Rome, one my favorite cities in the world! The red clay is back and it seems Rafa and Novak are ready to put the blue clay fiasco behind them and get back to competing. I'm all for innovation and making the game more accessible for home viewers. But I think it's wrong to do it in a rushed way that is opposed by the players. I've been watching red clay tennis for years and I've never had a problem with it. Hopefully, tournament heads will consider more thoughtful approaches to court enhancements in the future. And here's hoping that Rafa can return to his winning ways on clay this week. VAMOS!