By Brodie McPhee
We have seen hard courts in many colors. The Davis Cup has featured a wide range of colors as far as green and blue to pink. Regardless of this, grass has always been green, and clay has always been red (if you don’t include the dusty green ones). The past week tossed up a new varation, blue clay, for the first time. It came from the Madrid tournament, once held on hard courts, then red clay. A lower bounce combined with the thin air of the Spanish skies resulted in some less than predictable scorelines appeared day after day.
Roger Federer will have few complaints after he defeated Tomas Berdych in three aggressive sets to take his third Madrid title, one on hard courts, one on red clay, and one on blue clay. Federer won 65 of his 103 points within the first three shots of the rally, a testatment to how quick the courts in Madrid were playing.
This style of play also benefited the big hitters on the WTA side of things, where Serena Williams defeated number 1 Victoria Azarenka to take her first Madrid title. Serena only dropped one set all week, defeating other title contenders Wozniacki and Sharapova along the way.
Much was made of the court change over the course of the week, and was the main story. Many players found the new idea instantly successful. “I love it. I’m probably the biggest fan”, said Romanian Sorana Cirstea. “Probably the court is a little bit faster… I think having the blue clay is a new improvement. Every sport is trying to improve. So also for us, I think it is a step forward.”
Other players disagreed, however, feeling they had a difficult time getting a grip on the court, and both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic threatened to skip the stop next year if it was not changed back to the traditional red clay. Overall, it was an interesting choice that definitely caught the eye and created some exciting and different tennis, and tended to favour the more aggressive and powerful players. There will be a quick switch, however, as both tours move to Rome and a much more traditional, slower red clay.
WTA Surprise of the Week: Lucie Hradecka - A player typically known for her doubles stylings, the Czech came all the way through qualifying to make the semifinals in a career week. Upsetting fellow Czech and defending champion Petra Kvitova and 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur along the way was no small feat, either. “This one was a little bit strange because we are good friends, and we were even laughing with each other on the way to the court,” Hradecka said. “I knew if I played strong and concentrated on my serve I had a chance to win. We played at the end of last year in some club matches and I won, and also we’ve played a lot of sparring games from Fed Cup. We know each other’s games pretty well.” A well deserved run for a talented player.
ATP Surprise of the Week: Fernando Verdasco - Fernando has had some devastating losses to Rafael Nadal, including the famous five hour marathon in Australia in 2009 and an absolute beatdown in the 2010 Monte Carlo final. However, blue would prove to be the Spaniard’s lucky color as snapped a 13 game losing streak to his compatriot in front of a hometown crowd in 3 hours and 11 minutes. A quartefinal run will give him some precious points and give him some momentum heading into the end of the clay season.