• What the Deuce

Blue clay a fuss about nothing

What the Deuce
May 8, 2012
Caroline Wozniacki took a tumble on the blue clay © Getty Images
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Red or blue. No, What the Deuce is not dissecting the results of the local elections, it's about the Madrid Open's decision to switch from the traditional red clay to a vibrant, Smurf-like blue.

It's certainly caused an awful lot of debate, with King of Clay Rafael Nadal far from happy and Serena Williams describing the move as "ridiculous". What the Deuce cannot see what all the fuss is about. It's clay, whether red or blue, so the players should stop griping and get on with it.

Nadal is a two-time winner of the title in Madrid (the first of which was indoors on a hard court), but he has never been entirely comfortable - mainly because the event is at altitude and the ball flies faster through the air.

Still, his opinion matters and ahead of the event he said: "The court is also more slippery than normal. I don't know if it is because there is not much clay, but it is hard underneath and the blue paint slips more. I am not a technician, but I noticed it. I think it is a mistake, not of the organisers, because I understand and value their idea, but I repeat the ATP should not have accepted it."

We've had Caroline Wozniacki turning her ankle in her opening game, with the Dane coming off court following her win over Ksenia Pervak and saying: "It's definitely more slippery, but then I also completely stopped at one point - you could say it wouldn't happen on red clay, but then you never really know, it could be the same. It's definitely different, but blue is one of my favourite colours, so I do like the look."

Wozniacki attempted to play down the controversy by joking about the colour and Venus Williams has talked about it as being a fantastic fashion statement. It would appear opinion is divided. Maria Sharapova summed things up perfectly by saying: "The blue clay is obviously different, visually. When you play on red clay for so many years you get used to it, but as tennis players we're always adjusting to different things and different conditions, so it is what it is."

The key statement there is "the blue clay is obviously different, visually." Visually. Whether it is red, blue, green or purple, the clay that is used on tour is made of the same substance.

Nadal has complained about the court being slippery, on account of the hard surface underneath. That would be the same whether it was red or blue clay sat on top of the hard surface.

It is clearly a mental thing for many of the players at the moment, especially for those like Nadal who have forged their reputations on being dominant on the red clay. The Spaniard was beaten by Novak Djokovic in Madrid last year, when the clay was red, so win or lose this year it cannot truly be attributed to the change in colour.

The ATP, rather than the event organisers, has come in for criticism but those who run things in Madrid will be delighted. It has proved to be a controversial move, which has got people talking, and as such has raised awareness of the event.

Expect plenty of interest this week and it really does not matter whether it is red or blue.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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