Madrid's gimmicky blue clay courts will make their debut at next week's tournament and they're already doing their job: Everybody's talking about them.
It doesn't matter that the players are universally against the blue clay and that the press is calling out Ion Tiriac's blatant marketing ploy; that's the entire point. Non-Grand Slams usually don't have a media build-up. They just sort of start and people begin paying attention. These blue courts have made Madrid a major tennis story five days before the men's tournament takes place.
Each of the "big four" has come out against the different-colored clay, none more so than Rafael Nadal. He's been complaining about it for weeks. His latest barb:
"I spoke with [Novak] Djokovic and [Andy] Murray and they aren't very happy either. I've told you I do not think it's the right decision, especially to put it in the middle of the clay season."
Novak Djokovic wasn't as harsh:
"To be honest with you, as far as I know, most of the top players I talked to, nobody agreed on that. I never played on blue clay. Rafa didn't. Roger didn't. We're going on there and we're going to play for the first time ever. We don't even know if it's a natural blue clay because natural clay is a red clay. So we will find out really. I'm not really too happy about it, you know what I mean? It's going to be interesting to step on the blue clay obviously."
Roger Federer answered in classic, evasive Fed fashion:
"This is a long story, but I find it sad that you have to play on a surface the players don't accept. I find it sad that a player like Rafa, at a tournament in his own country, has had to fight against a surface that does not want to play on."
Andy Murray clearly isn't a fan either, but was more open to the innovation:
"Well, it's only a few weeks before the French Open, and the French Open is played on red clay," he said. "So for the players, it would be better for it to be on the red clay. But at the same time, you know, I've watched sometimes in Madrid. It's very difficult to see the ball. I understand the reasons for doing it. It makes the tournament unique and a bit different. Sometimes that's good for the tour."
Nobody should be surprised by the move. This is the tournament that hires models as ball girls, after all.