Madrid Masters bosses apologized on Friday for the slippery blue clay courts which have drawn fire from some players this week, but said that the situation is gradually getting better and less slippery by the day after late—night work lasting until 4.a.m at the Caja Magica.
Tournament supremo and adviser Ion Tiriac added that with a prize packet of in excess of 10 million dollars at the ATP—WTA event, competitors had a duty as professional to get on with matches.
“That kind of money does not come from Mother Teresa,” said the legendary former player, manager and billionaire promoter. “The players have to give back as well.”
Both idea man Tiriac and tournament director Manolo Santana promised that the court will slowly improve, explaining that an excess of caution at the construction stage in order to prevent any ankle injuries resulted in producing a surface which is too slick.
Tiriac said that over time, the courts will season and start to play like the traditional red clay court which have been the preserve of Rafael Nadal, who lost in the third round and said he would never return to play on blue clay. His sentiment was seconded by number one Novak Djokovic.
“It’s a pity,” said Tiriac. “I would be very sad if they did not play.
“The players are right when they say it is too slippery, we are working daily to fix that and things are getting better. There are still three days to go this week.”
The mustachioed Romanian, who has seen it all in 40 years of tennis, expressed regret for the situation but said that there has been no dispute at all about the actual blue colour, which form all reports has produced brilliant television pictures around the world.
The executive spoke frankly at a first—ever meeting between three former ATP CEOs who flew in as tournament guests: American Mark Miles (1990—2005), South African Etienne de Villiers (2005—2008) and Adam Helfant of the US (2009—2012).
“The court is slippery and I apologize,” said Tiriac. “We wanted to make sure that we had no player injuries, no ankle problems.
“As a result, the court experts rolled the base with too much pressure. When the blue sand was put on top it was unable to mix with the base; that created the slippery conditions.”
With the blue courts now remaining in place all through the year, they will slowly become more and more playable, presumably easing player concerns.
Tiriac said that the ATP must now take a decision about players who might wish to refuse to play Madrid in 2013.
Santana said the event has been working with clay experts from the French Open, Monte Carlo Masters and home—grown technicians. “Of course I’m upset with what some players are saying, but we absolutely did not want any injures (like in Monte Carlo last month).
“I take all of the blame for what is happening. But on TV the pictures are unbelievable with the blue. We are working hard to fix everything.”
Tiriac said that players who have complained the most might have had the hardest time adjusting to the surface. “No court in the world will improve without people playing on it. But the players are correct, it is too slippery.”