The tournament director “accepts” the ATP’s decision, although he “does not” share the same opinion and talks about the future plans for the Mutua Madrid Open
What is your take on the decision taking by the ATP in relation to the blue clay courts?
We accept the decision, because it comes from the world tennis organising body, but that is not to say that we like it. We’re not going to dwell on it though. We had a year trial period and it has been decided for now that the tournament should be played on red clay once again. No problem. As far as the Mutua Madrid Open is concerned, we are always looking ahead to the future and that continues to be the case. It is also important to remember that the ATP is not completely closed off to the idea of blue clay.
No, clearly not. Brad Drewett, the acting ATP president, specified that the Mutua Madrid Open can continue working on the blue court idea but any developments will have to pass a series of tests before being accepted in an ATP World Tour competition.
Exactly. And that is far more important than people might think. We are still confident that the future lies in the colour blue. The feedback we received regarding ball visibility from television audiences, as well as the spectators in the Caja Mágica, has reinforced our initial feelings on the subject. Above all else we want to create quality courts, using the best clay available, regardless of the colour.
In the public domain there is a general consensus that the courts were bad due to the colour.
That is a major misconception. Drewett was the first person to separate the two things. He spoke of the problems with the courts in terms of quality, not colour. And we are in complete agreement with him. It’s like that, and thinking otherwise simply doesn’t correspond to the reality of the situation. The ATP was the first to acknowledge the improvement in visibility. It is for this reason that Ion Tiriac, who is a hugely intelligent individual, insists that we continue to work on developing the blue courts, as it will help us to improve the quality of the playing surface overall. With a red court the one think you cannot improve is the visibility.
Can the Mutua Madrid Open guarantee that there will be quality courts in 2013?
Absolutely. The Mutua Madrid Open will have excellent clay courts which will make every tennis player want to compete in the Caja Mágica. We are talking about one of the most important tournaments in the world and we have a whole year ahead of us to work on the courts, something which until now has never been the case. This will ensure that the court quality in 2013 is assured, as well as in the following years. It will be played on red clay courts that will live up to the high standards of a Masters 1000 ATP World Tour tournament, but even if they were blue, they would be the exact same quality. Having a year to work on the courts is an ace up the sleeve we have never had before.
Would it be fair to say that you are, on some level, a bit disappointed with the decision?
I just believe that with the time we have now to work on the courts, with the experience and knowledge we have about the blue courts, the ATP could have allowed for at least another edition to take place. But as I’ve already said, we respect their decision and we will focus on creating the best possible courts.
As director of the tournament, what message do you have for those fans who may have walked away from this past edition with a bad taste in their mouths?
That the first thing to take into account is that we will never turn our back on tennis, on tennis players or on tennis fans. We never have and we never will. Our aim is and always has been to improve, but without ever distancing ourselves from the sport. The quality of the courts was not adequate and we accept that; however, we have a challenge ahead of us which inspires us: to make high-quality, red clay courts, as I’ve just said, and at the same time, to keep working hard to create a blue court of the same standard. And we are going to achieve both.
Do you believe this decision will calm players ahead of the next edition?
Tennis players are very intelligent; they know better than anyone what Madrid means and they always come here full of ambition and enthusiasm. They know full well that the Mutua Madrid Open is a tournament whose only objective is to promote their sport. We love tennis and work with the sole intention of helping it to grow. Madrid will not let them down.