The official presentation for tennis’ return to Madrid took place today. At a light-hearted video conference organised by ABC, the official daily of the Mutua Madrid Open, the 2021 edition of the tournament was inaugurated. Feliciano López, tournament director; Blanca Bernal, Bianca Andreescu’s physio; Anabel Medina, Spain’s Billie Jean King Cup captain, and player Carla Suárez all participated in the event, which served as a reminder of some of the main news from this year’s tournament.
The Mutua Madrid Open, where the main draws get underway on Thursday 29 April, will run for 11 days of competition for the first time, something that Feliciano touched on during the talk: “We’re one of the best ATP Masters 1000 and WTA 1000 tournaments in the world. Every year, the best players come to Madrid and extending the tournament gives the players longer to prepare”.
The tournament will also be open to spectators, at 40% capacity, something that López admits was difficult to achieve: “Any event in the post-COVID era is a constant, daily battle. It’s not easy to convince people to support you during complicated times”.
Despite the fact that the Caja Mágica will be welcoming fewer fans than normal, the director of the tournament is certain that the Mutua Madrid Open will set an example for other events in Spain. He outlined the health and safety measures established this year. “We have to put on a huge event, the first really important one in Spain since the pandemic. To do so, the tickets will be named, there will be temperature checks, crowding will be avoided… The night session has been brought forward so that it doesn’t break the curfew and the protocols will be followed to the letter”.
Because to Feliciano, a Mutua Madrid Open without fans makes no sense: “The public in Madrid is very special, it is one of the few places in Spain where they can win a match for you or lose it for your opponent”.
Carla agrees, she has enjoyed some very special evenings in the Caja Mágica and even has a favourite court. “To me Madrid is one of the best tournaments of the year. Stadium 2 is one of my favourite courts, every year I came to the tournament I asked to play on it. The fans are very close, it’s like the Bombonera, it’s spectacular and they’ve won me a lot of matches”.
But the unique circumstances have not changed the experience for fans, because the tennis players have had to adapt to the new reality. In the case of Carla, who is training in parallel with the competition this week, this is the first time she has been in the bubble. “We’re only allowed to go from the hotel to the club and from the club to the hotel. Dinner is at the hotel, but it’s what we have to do now for everyone’s safety and so that the tournament can be organised without any problems”.
From the perspective of Blanca, Andreescu’s physio, there has also been a change: “The goal for all tournaments is to limit how many people are on the premises. To limit the number of people travelling with the players, at least in the club while the player is not playing a match”.
The women’s main draw, which starts tomorrow, includes three Spaniards, which is very positive news for Anabel. “You can’t always have 20 players among the top 100. But Garbiñe is well established and in the case of Sara and Paula they’ve both made great strides to be among the top 100. It’s important for young players to have someone to look up to”.
Finally, everyone stuck their necks out and predicted a winner. In the men’s there was no question; Rafa Nadal; while the WTA competition divided opinions. For Feliciano the favourite was Simona Halep, Blanca chose Ashleigh Barty, Anabel opted for one of the Spaniards, particularly Garbiñe and Carla Suarez couldn’t choose between Halep, Kvitova and Barty.
This is a clear sign of both the competitiveness of the WTA draw, which will provide us with some stunning match ups as from tomorrow, and the might of Rafa Nadal in the men’s tournament, where he is one of the hot favourites to win the trophy again.