From Blue To Red & Predicting Paris

Posted by Brodie under: Madrid

18 May 2012

NEWSFLASH: Tomas Berdych will not be making the final of Roland Garros.

Likewise, Federer will not be winning over 50% of his points within the first three shots of the rally in Paris.

And there lies the problem.

We as the tennis faithful have grown accustomed to certain norms. Particularly, each major tournament will be preceded by several tournaments played on the same surface. Nearly every major player will play at least one of these, particularly before Roland Garros and Wimbledon, and we, Tennis Nation (capitals mine), will have a rough idea of where each player stands heading into the Big One.

At first, the idea of blue clay warmed my heart. Tradition is important in tennis. Tradition is important in nearly every sport except Arena Football and that weird, probably no longer existing basketball league played on trampolines. However, tennis has always had one thing other sports don’t have. We have different surfaces. Sure, baseball and football (the one where you use your feet) have different sized stadiums, but it isn’t the same. If you don’t include carpet and indoor/outdoor differences, there have always been three. Why not add a bit more colour, a bit of a different feel, and change things up?

In reality, I’m still not against blue clay. But I’m against the timing. Over the last few years, we have had optional Monte Carlo, Madrid, and Rome to get a proper look at our sports’ stars. Sure, Madrid has always been a bit quick, but it is still clay. Sadly, Madrid is now more than just quick. It didn’t take long to see that this wasn’t your grandma’s clay. High altitude means thin air, and faster balls, as normal. But the blue clay was quick as well, and the bounce was low. It was a bit like a strange grass/clay hybrid.
Therefore, players typically successful on faster and/or lower bouncing surfaces had a field day. Likewise, they are players that do not place footwork at a premium. Tipsarevic upset Djokovic, Verdasco upset Nadal, and Federer chuckled to himself as he took another Masters title at the hands of a crumbling Berdych. Del Potro also found immediate success.

Things have returned to the norm in Rome, as arguably the top 4 clay players are in the semifinals (Nadal, Djokovic, Federer, Ferrer). Unfortunately, this will be our only look at Federer on real clay. Nadal’s defeat of Djokovic in the Monte Carlo final is telling, but not definite.

For players, Rome could prove to be a much bigger preparation week than it has the past several years. Yes, it is placed after Madrid instead of before, but this could be their main chance to get warmed up on the red stuff. For us fans, we must take the Madrid results with so many grains of salt that it is practically irrelevant in the prediction of Roland Garros. With several players threatening to boycott the tournament, we will have to see what steps the tournament takes over the course of the year to alter or entirely change the surface. Your move, Magic Box.

The Changeover Podcast:

Episode #56 – Indian Wells Wrap