Madrid – round 1st + 2nd
It’s the first tournament in history held on a blue clay (!) which obviously creates some controversies. The all-time biggest specialist of clay, Rafael Nadal complained before the Mutua Madrileña Open kicked off: “Madrid is one of the best tournaments in the world and does not need this. It is played at altitude. That makes it different already. I appreciate the idea but it should have never been allowed.” Nadal didn’t mention that the construction of the courts makes the tournament special too, stands on smaller courts are partially covered by a roof which reminds of the Centre Court in Melbourne and creates semi-indoor conditions. Nadal’s biggest rival, the Serbian slayer Novak Djokovic joined in the criticism: “If you don’t have, especially, top players testing the court and agreeing for this change, that should mean something. They should have value in what they say.” Despite complaining, the best players in the world won their opening matches convincingly, Nadal needed only 80 minutes against fading Nikolay Davydenko  with whom he has still a negative H2H (5-6, lost four straight matches prior to Madrid); Djokovic 26 minutes more against Daniel Gimeno-Traver , surprisingly losing the middle set. Gimeno-Traver hadn’t won an ATP match since July (8 consecutive defeats) before ousted in the first round Victor Hanescu, thanks to his only break of the match in the 8th game of the 3rd set. “Taking into consideration that this was my first official match on the blue clay and that my opponent today already had three matches behind him, maybe that was a little disadvantage on my side,” said Djokovic after the 6-2 2-6 6-3 victory…
Personally I don’t have any problem with this Ion Tiriac‘s revolutionary concept, in my opinion every diversity is interesting and worth tasting. There’s always a possibility to come back to something which had been approved earlier. The blue clay may be adopted in the following years by other tournaments and in the future the red-clay might have been perceived as an obsolete surface. Esthetically I find the new Madrid color as a nice one, and presumably it doesn’t stain clothes as much as the red clay (Serena Williams’ notice) which is a positive trait of the experimental surface…
Gael Monfils  came back on tour after a month break and beat in his opening round Philipp Kohlschreiber  in an entertaining battle on Stadium 3. The Frenchman saved two set points at *2:5 in the 1st set, erased a 2:5 hole in the 2nd as well, but the match was decided at 3 games apiece in the decider, when the German lost his focus and 12 points in a row to the end of the match which Monfils won 7-5 6-7 6-3. In the second set tie-break, Monfils almost played a volley forehand winner between the legs from the baseline (photo)! In the second round he could meet Juan Carlos Ferrero  – the Spanish veteran returned on tour after even longer break – he didn’t play since the South American swing. Former No. 1 in the world was eliminated by qualifier Igor Andreev  in straight sets though, despite a double set point in the 2nd set. Ferrero has arguably the worst period in his very long tennis career, he hasn’t won a tournament match since Valencia ’11, which makes eight first round defeats in succession. Richard Gasquet  needed 7 match points to finish the last year’s semifinalist Thomaz Bellucci 4-6 6-4 7-6. The Brazilian  had saved match points in three different games, but on the 7th match point Gasquet concluded the contest with a blistering cross-court backhand directly after Bellucci’s return. The handsome Brazilian has the worst deciding TB record among active players who finded themselves at least 10 times in this situation – 2/8. Gasquet had a 0-8 record this season until Estoril in sets which went to 5-all, since then he has had a 5-0 record in these sets (after beating Viktor Troicki 7-5 6-3 in the second round). Milos Raonic  served 37 aces summing up two consecutive days but it wasn’t enough to secure a third round spot. After dispatching David Nalbandian in straight sets, Raonic had a mini-match point at 5-all in the 2nd set to add another straight setters to his activity. His opponent Roger Federer  played a solid serve-and-forehand action forcing an error, and stepped up in the following game to obtain his only break in the entire match. In the 3rd set the Canadian had two break points at 3:3 (40/15) – this time Federer escaped with a backhand stop-volley (went to the net after 2nd serve) and an ace. In the deciding tie-break Raonic’s serve let him down and Federer notched a 4-6 7-5 7-6 win in his first match since sensational loss to Andy Roddick in Miami. For Raonic it’s the first defeat in the 3rd set deciding tie-break (6-1 record).
Two top 10 players pulled out, Andy Murray  due to back injury and Mardy Fish  because of fatigue he’s been struggling since the first months of the year. “I always love coming to Madrid so it is a big disappointment. I look forward to returning next year and wish everyone a great week of tennis.” said the British player. Fish said he believes the grass-court season can turn the tables for him, it is still uncertain whether he plays on the European clay this year or not. Murray is eager to participate at Foro Italico next week. The tournament is deprived of two injured Top 20 guys as well – Juan Monaco and Kei Nishikori. The former suffered an injury at Monte Carlo, the latter in Barcelona.
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