It’s about to hot up in Madrid

The Mutua Madrid Open begins on the 4th May and is classified as an ATP Masters 1000 event.

Controversy surrounded the event last year when the event officials opted to change from red to blue clay, players compalined as to how slippy they were with their grip underfoot proving problematic. The tournament officials never expected the responce they received to their decision. Both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic threatened not to play at the tournament again in the courts weren’t changed back to the traditional colour. You could say that both players reacted very bitterly, making their threats after their third round and quarter-final defeats but they certainly made the officials listen and, ultimately, act on it and change back to red, meaning Rafa and Novak will be on their way back this year. The tournament has been prone to changes in the past, having changed from indoor hard courts to outdoor clay in 2009. The current world number 2 Roger Federer also gave his opinion on the surface (see below video).

There are no notable absences from this year’s event, with, most signficantly, Roger Federer poised to make his long-awaited return to action after dropping off the tour to spend some family time and get preapred for the clay season. It’s the Swiss master’s first clay event of the year and it comes at a place where he holds the record for the most appearances in a final (5), with 3 of those finals consisting of Roger wins. Last year also resulted in a Federer win, he beat Tomas Berdych 3-6 7-5 7-5 in the final.

The question is, will Federer be better off after his break? Some people will argue that he, at 31 years-old, will struggle to get back to his best but I disagree and wouldn’t be surprised to see him back at a high level and eager to prove his critics wrong. I’d never write him off and there’s little doubt about his vast hunger to still succeed despite achieveing pretty much everything there is to achieve within the sport. Clay has clearly never been his favoured surface, with just 1 of his 17 grand slams coming on clay at the French Open.

Tournament organiser and billionaire Romanian businessman Ion Tiriac has never been afraid of controversy, and not just with the surface colour, he implemented the change of ball girls being models. He oversaw the event being changed to being held on clay and in May so the ATP could have an autumn Masters event in Shanghai, consequently meaning the Hamburg tournament was downgraded to an ATP 500 – angering some people. It looks to be a more settled year with it being back on red clay so hopefully more of the focus will be on the tennis going on.

Rafael Nadal is the favourite and won the ATP 500 in Barcelona last week, bouncing back to a Monte Carlo Masters final defeat to Novak Djokovic. The ‘King of Clay’ can return to the top 4 ranking spots with a good performance in Madrid. As for Britain’s Andy Murray, he had a poor start to the clay season and will be looking to get back to his best. In Monte Carlo, his last event, the US Open champion got through a first round match without any worries but Stanislas Wawrinka thrashed the Brit 6-2 6-1 in under an hour in round 2.

It’s set to be another exciting event on the tour as preparations continue for the French Open, which starts later this month.

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