In a span of 24 hours, Rafael Nadal lost and threatened to boycott next year's tournament, Novak Djokovic issued the same declaration and Ion Tiriac, the billionaire responsible for Madrid's controversial blue courts, apologized for the slippery surface. Given these developments, it's not unreasonable to assume the world's top players won their passive-aggressive battle against the colored clay surface.
But not so fast, says Tiriac.
"It's a pity," he said of Nadal and Djokovic's threats. "I would be very sad if they did not play."
The tennis promoter was referring to Nadal's comments made after a three-set loss to Fernando Verdasco.
"The ATP and the tournament can do what they want," an irritated Nadal told the press. "The only thing that I know is that if things continue like this I am very sad but next year will be one less tournament in my calendar."
(Reading Nadal's quotes over the past two weeks, it's easy to see why he's let Novak Djokovic take up permanent residence in his head. Rafa can't let things go.)
His Uncle Toni echoed the same sentiments. "I told Rafa not to play [Madrid] this year and I hope he doesn't play the next time," he told El Pais.
Novak Djokovic, who won his third-round match on Thursday, hinted that he'd skip Madrid too if the courts remain.
"They are saying it's exactly the same as the red clay which is not true because there is a big difference," the world No. 1 said. "You are tripping and slipping and sliding all the time and winner will be the one who doesn't get hurt until the end of the week because a lot of players fell down. Generally it's a new experience and the way it looks this year hopefully the last experience."
Rafa's comments may come across as sour grapes while Novak's seem to be setting the table for sour grapes, if that meal should become available. It may be uncouth and childish to threaten to take your racquet and go home, but can you blame them? Players don't have a loud voice in many tennis matters. They have an opportunity to affect change and are taking advantage of it.
Update: Djokovic lost his Friday quarterfinal match to countryman Janko Tipsarevic, then ripped the courts and former ATP chief Adam Helfant in his press conference. The world No. 1 insinuated Helfant's approval of the slippery blue courts involved some shady back-room deals. Roger Federer, meanwhile, advanced to the semifinals without incident.
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