Top men turn Madrid air blue over 'Smurf clay'


The organisers of the Madrid Masters will be under pressure to revert to traditional red-clay courts next year, after the world's top two players delivered damning verdicts on the blue clay which is being used for the first time at this week's event.

After Novak Djokovic's complaint that it was "impossible to move" on the slippery surface, Rafael Nadal said after a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Nikolay Davydenko yesterday that it was "a difficult court" and one which he hoped would be changed next year.

Ion Tiriac, a former player and the entrepreneur behind the tournament, believes the blue court makes it easier for players and spectators to see the ball. The court builders say the blue dye is the only significant difference in its construction. But the players have complained that it is hard to keep their feet on the surface, which was labelled "Smurf clay" by Milos Raonic.

"The court is not one that makes you feel comfortable," Nadal told Spanish TV after beating Davydenko. "The court is a difficult court. It's very slippery and it makes supporting movements and getting back to defend very tough. But the only thing we can do now is turn the page. We are not going to get the red courts back tomorrow, so we have to adapt to the blue courts and the conditions as well as possible and hope for a change next year."

Djokovic said after a 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 victory over Spain's Daniel Gimeno-Traver: "I hit five balls [properly] throughout the whole match. Everything else, I was just trying to put the ball in the court. So I just relied on my serve and getting some points eventually from his unforced errors. For me that's not tennis."

Even before the courts turned blue, players were unhappy with Madrid as a build-up event to the French Open, which starts on 27 May, as conditions are so different to Roland Garros. Besides a slippery surface, balls fly faster through the thinner air, Madrid being 650 metres above sea level.

Petra Kvitova, the 2011 Wimbledon champion and the women's title-holder in Madrid, was yesterday beaten 6-4, 6-3 by a fellow Czech, Lucie Hradecka, the world No 105, after dropping her serve five times.

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