The event’s director, Feliciano López, has called the women’s 2019 Mutua Madrid Open a spectacular tournament, and not without good reason. One of the keys to its success is that the biggest stars on the WTA tour all profess their unconditional love for the event and everything that comes with it. Incredible, but true: the eight best players in the world shared similar answers when asked to choose the things they like best about the tournament in the Caja Mágica and its intricacies. The players are delighted, and the enthusiasm for the tournament is global.
Of course, the passion of the fans is one of Madrid’s biggest strengths. None are more aware of this than Carla Suárez, a perfect mentor for her colleagues this week and always keen to do well at home. “You know you’re a home player, that they’re going to be 100% behind you”, says the world number 27. But she is not the only one who feels the support from the stands at this Premier Mandatory. Madrid’s ever-admirable hospitality for outsiders has also reached the world of tennis. As Simona Halep, now among the Top 8, will testify.
“It’s a very special tournament for me because there are a lot of Romanians in Madrid. Also, a lot of friends come to support me, Ion Tiriac is Romanian too… So I practically feel at home. In addition, the Spanish fans always treat me very well. All of this makes me feel very happy here in Madrid”, reveals the world number 3. “They even cheer you on in training”, adds the 4th-ranked Angelique Kerber, to cap off the praise of the local fans.
And nor is there any argument about another of the Mutua Madrid Open’s greatest virtues; the food. “I think it’s the best food on tour. The best restaurant is here, and in Rome”, notes Sloane Stephens, no. 8 in the world ranking. “Whenever I come here I try to have the pasta because it’s delicious”, continues world no. 5 Karolina Pliskova. She is not the only one with a taste for the tournament’s culinary delights. “The thing I like best is eating as much chocolate mousse as I can”, confesses Halep. “I always find things I like here. Like bubble tea. If you look hard enough you can find it”, laughs Stephens.
The quality of the facilities in Madrid also has the best players waxing lyrical. “The fact that the Caja Mágica has three courts that can be covered at any time if it rains is spectacular”, says Conchita Martínez, currently Pliskova’s coach and ever a legend of the game. “I love that the tournament has three big main courts with retractable roofs, where you can keep playing regardless of what’s happening outside”, agrees Petra Kvitova, the defending Mutua Madrid Open champion and world no. 2. There is no shortage of positive adjectives, from Stephens’ “beautiful” (referring to the Manolo Santana Stadium centre court) to the multiple “fantastics” from Elina Svitolina, the world no. 6.
Another of this competition’s assets is equality, which has now been extended to the entire WTA Tour. “Everyone is competing, everyone is starting to get used to the clay. I love that”, says Kiki Bertens, world no. 7 and runner-up in Madrid last year. The prestige of the field does not go unnoticed either. “I think that everyone enjoys playing here, all the big players come”, offers Pliskova. “The conditions are perfect for the players”, adds Svitolina, who has also fallen for the habitual good weather in the Spanish capital at this time of year.
Everything comes together perfectly, not even the altitude is seen as a handicap. Kvitova, last year’s winner, explains that “the balls fly faster and I can go after them more aggressively, so my opponents have less time to reach my shots. Also, the courts are not too skiddy and as I’m not great at sliding to reach balls, maybe that helps me too”.
Clearly, Madrid has won all of them over: the great memories, the beauty of the city, perfect organisation… Naomi Osaka sums it up perfectly: “The atmosphere here is different”. And, also “everyone is so nice”. If the world number 1 says so, you’d better believe it.