News24

Tiriac backs blue clay courts

2012-05-13 20:23

Madrid - Madrid Masters supremo Ion Tiriac insisted on Sunday the blue clay courts that have prompted anger and derision from some of the world's top players are the way forward in tennis.

Former professional Tiriac admitted, however, that keeping them or not for 2013 will be a decision for the ATP.

"Tradition is not only conservation, it is also progress," said the colourful Romanian billionaire, who has been at the forefront of innovation in the game for four decades as a player, coach, manager and businessman.

"The tie-break, yellow balls, Hawk-eye (electronic linecalling) - every change was a storm in a glass of water.

"Blue is a better court colour than other colours, better that the green-grey they call clay in the US and that brown stuff they use in India."

World No 1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic vowed never to return to play on the tournament's controversial blue clay after he bowed out on Friday.

"I want to forget this week as soon as possible and move on to the real clay courts," said the top seed, who beat Spaniard Rafael Nadal a year ago for the trophy.

"They can do what they like, I won't be here next year if this clay stays."

Nadal also insisted he, too, would not play the Madrid tournament if the blue clay remains in place in 2013.

In stark contrast, third seed and 2009 winner Roger Federer said: "If you want to be a good clay court player, you must be able to play everywhere."

Much of the criticism centred on the fact the courts were too slick - due to over-pressing the base in order to insure minimal bad bounces - although reports suggest the surface was a winner for television viewers.

Tiriac added: "It is the duty of organisers and players to think about the future. This sport is fighting for television time, for sponsors, for money to make this sport better than it is today.

"If the ball can be seen better, that is good for a television viewer. In every decade the game jumps enormously toward more professionalism."

Despite the threat of player boycotts next year, tournament director Manolo Santana said: "We will follow what the ATP decides on court colour.

"It will be up to the ATP to speak to the players and tell them if they must play or not. Then it is a player decision."

Tiriac said that with 12 months to work on the now-permanent court, all of the kinks can and will be worked out.

"I believe tennis players should earn 500 million a year - as long as the market can give it to him," said Tiriac.

"But the player has to give back and think of the future of the game."

AFP