Monday, May 14, 2012

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!

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