First of all, we have to point out a huge distinction. There are two possible issues that we could be discussing here. We could be talking about the blue clay. Or we could be talking about Madrid’s clay in general. There is what to say about each. However, it is important to keep in mind the difference when we discuss this issue.
The top players are definitely unhappy with this surface. And, to their credit, very few explicitly mentioned the blue when talking about it needing to be different for next year. However, the implication was there. And it really isn’t the fault of the blue. Madrid has always been a different type of clay surface. This year is no exception. The only difference is that this year it’s more visible.
Yes, the clay was slippery and there were bad bounces all over the place. The clay was slippery because the court underneath the clay wasn’t prepared properly and wasn’t played on enough. There were bad bounces because clay (and Madrid in particular) can always have bad bounces. Neither of these were because the clay was blue. In fact, two players had serious ankle injuries on Monte Carlo’s red clay (in the same spot on the court). There were no injuries this week in Madrid.
Players complained because it’s not a good warm-up for Roland Garros. Well, Madrid has never played the same as Paris. The difference in altitude alone ensures that. And Federer rightly pointed out that not every tournament on the calendar has to play the exact same and that not every tournament has to be a warm-up for a Slam.
So what do I think about the blue clay and why do I think that the players are complaining? I think the blue is a cute gimmick and that there’s nothing wrong with it. It can draw fans and really does make the ball easier to see, especially if you’re watching without HD. I think the players are complaining because they saw the blue, expected it to be different, and therefore were more cognizant of the problems that Madrid has always had. The courts at Madrid definitely need to be fixed. But it’s not their color that’s the issue.
#8 Seed at Roland Garros Still up for Grabs:
Janko Tipsarevic and Juan Martin Del Potro took command of the race for that important 8th seed, each of them reaching the semifinals in Madrid. The #8 seed is Tipsarevic’s to hold onto now. As long as he goes just as far as Del Potro in Rome the seed is his. Also, even if he doesn’t, he will be the #8 seed unless Del Potro reaches the semifinals. John Isner can still get the seed if he reaches the final, while Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils need to win Rome to have a chance. (Actually, Simon could technically get it if he reaches the final, Tipsarevic loses his first match, and Delpo loses before the semifinal.)
Federer will pass Nadal for World #2 when the rankings are updated tomorrow. Federer will have a 370-point lead over Nadal. This means that Nadal needs to reach the final just to have a chance at the #2 seed at Roland Garros. *If Federer reaches the semis, then Nadal would need to win the tournament. Of course, this is assuming that Federer plays Rome. He seems to have a slight hip injury in Madrid and there are rumors that he will not play this week.
Also, it looks like the disaster scenario won’t happen and that Andy Roddick will still be seeded at Roland Garros, if he chooses to play there. Roddick once again skipped all of the major European clay court tournaments, but players behind him didn’t gain enough points to bump him out of the seeds. He will need a few wins there, however, as the possibility grows that he won’t be seeded at Wimbledon.
Federer’s Chase for #1
Well, Federer is still backing up his claim that he wants World #1 again. He is now within 2200 points of Djokovic since Rome points came off the board a week early this year. Federer winning combined with Djokovic’s early exit was almost a 2000-point swing this week. Djokovic still has 5600 points to defend between Wimbledon and the US Open. That will be Federer’s chance, and it’s looking more and more likely. Federer does have more points to defend than Djokovic at Roland Garros, but he only has 360 to defend at Wimbledon. With a good run at Rome and another early exit by Djokovic, Federer could easily put himself in position to take over the #1 spot at Wimbledon if Djokovic doesn’t win the tournament.
*Author’s note: Due to a miscalculation, this article originally stated that if Federer reached the final and Nadal won the tournament that Federer would be the #2 seed at Roland Garros. This is incorrect. In such a case, Nadal would be the #2 seed.