The Mutua Madrid Open has been a pioneering tournament ever since the beginning. When it was played in Stuttgart, I remember there was talk of the tournament coming to Spain, to Madrid specifically. For us it was a very important moment because it was the start of a Masters 1000, something we hadn’t had in our country until then. However, we were taking on a tournament played on indoor hard court, which was not our best surface. Although I had won the Masters a few years before, it is true that, generally, when you imagined a tournament in Spain, you thought of clay. But that was just the first piece of great news.
At Casa de Campo we started to see that the tournament was going to become a unique event for the city. It has transcended tennis to become a very social, very cultural and very sporting tournament. Every year actresses, actors, athletes from other sports, people who are very important to the city of Madrid and, of course, the public make it into a very special event. You can feel the excitement of the people who come from all over Spain to see their favourite players. They are lucky enough to have a combined tournament and this makes it more attractive because they can see both their heroes and their heroines, the stars they have seen so often on the TV. Anything is possible thanks to the fact that the Caja Mágica is a very special place.
From the beginnings in Casa de Campo we started to see that the finer points of this tournament were well above the average for any event around the world. With Ion Tiriac as the owner, Gerard Tsobanian’s team does a spectacular job. They are always looking to improve, to progress, seeking to give the people something new to discover. The players feel very well treated and that has made it into one of the world’s leading ATP and WTA tournaments.
Although it started out as an indoor tournament, something that always has its limitations, the training courts were always special because people were very close to us. The atmosphere that was starting to build on centre court was pretty unique. I think the greatest thing for our tennis was making the move to a combined event in the Caja Mágica. We were hugely lucky that a person as important as Tiriac is to the world of tennis thought of our country for this tournament.
The atmosphere often experienced on centre court transcends tennis, especially when Rafa is playing. The passion in the stands is becoming more like that of a football match as the fans learn more about tennis. When you find that balance between both passions it creates a great atmosphere in the Manolo Santana Stadium. I think it is hugely spectacular.
The help from the city of Madrid, all the sponsors, all the volunteers and all the people makes the tournament so special, very unique and gets the whole city talking about the event. It is a wonderful thing to experience. To me it is a very important week of the year, I enjoy it so much. Honestly, the affection fans show me nowadays is surprising and every year that’s really touching. I have a great time. It is a week of great intensity and long hours, but it is also truly wonderful.
By Alex Corretja