Seeing Blue, Seeing Red: Madrid Open and the Nothing Controversy

Posted: May 16, 2012 in ALL II
Tags: , , ,

Add this to the reasons why I prefer Roger “The Greatest of All Time” over Rafa Nadal: He acts like a champion and not a whiny brat.  Federer and Serena Williams won the Madrid Open last Sunday on the new, blue clay – a feature added to provide the viewer with a better experience (and to distinguish this tournament from the other clay court tournaments that people don’t watch).  Top players on the men’s and women’s sides complained that the new surface was too slippery, interfered with their training regimen in preparation for the French Open, and acted like old folks unwilling to adjust to something new.

“My criticism is not directed at the tournament but at the ATP, which should never had allowed such a change at a tournament of this scale,” – Rafa Nadal

“The only thing that is a little bit disappointing from a player’s standpoint is that this is decided without players agreeing on it…If you don’t have, especially, the top players testing the court and agreeing for this change that should mean something. The ATP should have done a better job in representing the players’ rights. I hope that we don’t have injuries and that we can have a decent week of tennis here.”  – Novak Djokovic

This is the same progressive body that did not want to switch to tiebreakers, use of instant replay, domed centre courts, or anything else that represents the modern game.  Federer and Williams, to a lesser degree, opted to focus on adjusting to the surface and playing their opponents.  Without question the quicker court speed and lower bounce, particularly off the forehand side- favor the champions’ game but both players worked through the challenges to succeed.  Nadal came in with a snotty attitude and left threatening to boycott the event (along with Djokovic); both lost in early rounds.  I imagine if their final result would be better we would get a little different narrative.  As a fan, the court contrast was better to watch and I did actually watch the tournament, something I didn’t do last year.  Sure they will need to make the top level less slick but the color should stay and players should adjust.  Flexibility wins titles.

Nadal should take a long look in the mirror as his petulant gripping appears as self-serving and childish at best.  His case against the blue clay may appear genuine but as Jon Wertheim notes, Nadal does cry when not getting his way. “This year alone, Nadal has griped about Roger Federer’s sidestepping controversy and letting others take bullets. Nadal lobbied for a candidate to be the ATP’s CEO, based largely on the candidate’s willingness to endorse a loco two-year ranking system. Nadal resigned from the ATP players’ council. He’s thrown out numerous digs about the ATP’s scheduling and commitment mandates. And, of course, Nadal was vocal in his objection to the Madrid surface. Six-pack or not, that’s a lot of bellyaching.”

(Aside: Nadal supported a two year points ranking system which makes absolutely zero sense and favors…Nadal.  No one asked him to play most of his matches on clay and tear his knees up.  That’s on him.  If he is worried about preparation for the French, then train on red clay and move on with life.  He seems so snippy since Djokovic took his number one spot ending the short lived “Nadal Era.”  By the way, you can’t be better than Federer all-time without having an era.  His era lasted about as long as the Detroit Pistons “era” in the mid-2000s.)

Complaining and trying to throw one’s weight around is a natural distraction from on the court performance.  Perennial winners focus on the task at hand without the dramatics.  Federer and Williams did that and earned statement titles.  Federer regained his #2 ranking and has been the best player on the tour since the U.S. Open.  Williams obliterated the top two seeds, reminding everyone that ratings don’t matter in the WTA and she should be the favorite anytime she decides to show up.  What this means for the French is unknown but this blue clay pettiness represents the top players hitting a rough spot elsewhere in their play, a convenient outlet to vent while the legends charge to the crown.

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