“What’s the big deal about smurf clay?” I asked, while catching up with a few tennistical buddies in Sydney last weekend.
For all the pre-tournament curiosity and outrage over the colour of the “clay courts” in Madrid, I personally just didn’t see what the fuss was all about. Clay is a man-made substance. If man could make it red, man can make it blue instead. While I may have been a little peeved at Madrid’s tendency to kowtow to their corporate sponsors, if it helps me see the ball on a fuzzy internet stream without developing a sudden onset of colour blindness, then why the hail not?
But of course, the controversy over smurf clay turned out to be a little more than that. Some pointed to the romantic, old world charm of red clay that brings to mind places like Rome, Barcelona and Gay Pariee, although personally, “old world charm” seems to be a fairly poor excuse for a refusal to change.
More commonly, comments from players seem to suggest that other than being utterly uneuropean in colour, the smurf clay courts also just happen to be utterly shit tennis courts in their own right.
After being taken to three sets yesterday in Madrid by Gimeno-Traver, Nole let off some steam about the Madrid courts with his typical … err … dramatic flair.
“To me that’s not tennis. Either I come out with football shoes or I invite Chuck Norris to advise me how to play on this cour … Center court is impossible to move on. I hit five balls throughout the whole match. With everything else, I was just trying to keep the ball in the court.”
In some twisted way, shitty smurf clay seems strangely appropriate for Madrid – a tournament that has always stuck out like a sore thumb in the European clay season: from the clusterfuck of a website, which features a entire page ominously titled “Tennistainment”, to the tacky group photos with super-model ball girls, and confetti explosions that make Rafa and Roger quiver in their pants each year. As a tournament, Madrid has a rather consistent record of attempting clever outlandish novelties, and coming off looking like the biggest idiots.
So make those courts better, make them safe, but as far as smurf coloured clay goes, would you have expected anything else from the tournament that unceremoniously moved itself from the indoor season to the middle of spring clay?