Nadal Blames Madrid Open Loss On Blue Clay, Threatens Tourney Boycott
Tennis players Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have "threatened not to return" to the Mutua Madrid Open if the tournament's blue clay courts are not "discarded," according to the AP. Nadal Thursday lost to Fernando Verdasco in the third round of the tournament, "his earliest exit in a clay-court tournament" since '04. Nadal "blamed his first loss on clay in almost a year on the blue clay, which players have said was slippery." He said, "Being able to move is very important for me and if I can't move well, I can't hit the ball well either. If things don't change, this will be one less tournament on the calendar for me." Nadal added, "This surface destabilizes the game. It is a completely different game and I don't want to take risks.'' Meanwhile, Djokovic Thursday defeated Stanislas Wawrinka, but said that he "would also boycott the tournament if it didn't go back to the traditional red-clay surface." Djokovic said, "They are claiming that the court is exactly the same as red clay, which is not true because there is a big difference. You are tripping, slipping all the time, sliding. The winner will be the one who doesn't get hurt by the end of the week" (AP, 5/10). SI.com's Jon Wertheim wrote, "While it's probably regrettable that the Madrid promoters chose a different type of clay than other events, including the forthcoming French Open, big deal." Courts "always play a little differently from event to event." Wertheim added, "While I respect players' willingness to use their acquired capital to voice their grievances, I sometimes wish they picked their battles more judiciously." When changing from red clay to blue clay "practically incited a riot, how is the sport going to do anything meaningful?" (SI.com, 5/9).
PUSHING THE ENVELOPE: YAHOO SPORTS' Chris Chase noted Madrid Open Owner Ion Tiriac "has announced his plan to take everyone's mind off the color of the clay next year." Tiriac said that he "plans to use phosphorescent tennis balls at next year's event." Tiriac said, "We think it fluorescent green or fluorescent orange, which grabs more light and works best in contrast with the blue clay." Chase wrote, "I don't think Tiriac's idea will get past the spitballing stages." The ATP has "caught enough flak for allowing the switch to blue courts." The league is "not going to go further toward the circus with orange balls" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/10).