First Weekend in Madrid
If Madrid has a board posting practice schedules, I haven’t found it. So I missed Rafa’s practice on Saturday even though it was on the main stadium. Must have been early before the first match started at 1. I got lucky on Sunday and only knew he was around due to the huge and noisy crowd that was gathering on the platform overlooking the outside courts. I was sitting on the opposite side of court 7 waiting for the next match to begin when the mass appeared.
The main access to courts 4, 5, 6, and 7 and the practice courts is a platform with the courts below it on both sides. You climb a flight of stairs at one end by the main arena area to get access. Then you have a set of 4 doubled up practice courts, then the 4 match courts with a couple of hundred seats and at the end there are 4 more doubled up practice courts that you can look down on. There is no access (that I know of) to the platform at the far end. There is also access to the courts around the outside, with a few rows of seating on the match courts and just an area to stand by the practice courts. I was seated in that area by court 7, which is the match court farthest out on the right. Rafa was on the practice court farthest out on the left on the inside. I was able to go all the way around on the outside and move into a crowd of people standing to watch Rafa practice from across another court. Not great for pictures and to make matters worse the batteries on my camera died. But here are a couple.
Here are Rafa and Feli negotiating what the winner of their practice match would get (at least that is what I decided they were talking about). It was an intense conversation but they were both smiley.
Rafa won the match 6-2. I was trying to keep up with the score, but it was hard considering I couldn’t see any of the court due to the advertising board set up between the practice courts. So I was just going by their reactions to see who won the point.
After they finished, they were sitting down for a rest and the crowd on the platform was incessantly chanting for Rafa. At one point he shook his head and I thought he was saying, “How do they expect me to sign autographs for them when they are on a platform one story up?” Then Feli started hitting some balls up there to their delight. No one fell off. Then of course, the people over where I was started calling for Feli to hit balls over on this side. He did come over to sign autographs on the end away from me, while Rafa practiced hitting some more balls with Uncle Toni. After Rafa finished, he tried kicking some balls up onto the platform but was not successful in getting any of them to stay up there. He also came over to sign autographs where Feli had.
I felt kinda bad for the woman that was trying to practice in the court where I was standing. It was quite a circus.
What’s good about this tournament?
- There is unsecure WIFI on the main court. (The WIFI connection is called PistaCentral). That gives me access to the ATP/WTA app to check scores and to Twitter. Roaming cost 19 cents per kB, so WIFI is the only way I’m accessing it. Occasionally, I can find an unsecure network from outside the main court, but not usually.
- The bathroom facilities are excellent. There are a ton of them and they are clean and well stocked. A tremendous departure from my other experiences with European tournaments and the Davis Cup event in Seville.
- Three courts have retractable roofs, so there are no significant rain delays. It started raining Saturday night during Venus’ match. It took about 10 minutes to close the roof and everybody’s comfortable.
- The seats on all the courts are comfortable and you can see over the people in front of you.
What’s bad about the tournament?
- As I’ve already mentioned, I have not found a board where they post the practice schedule.
- The tournament is sponsored by Schwepps, so they are not selling Coke or Pepsi products. Hey, people, I’ve got jet lag, I need caffeine!
- It’s kinda hard to figure out where stuff is. The 3 main courts are on 1 level, but you need to go downstairs to get access to the outside courts. I could not find a full site map, even on the website.
About the Blue Clay
It really is pretty, but so is red clay. It is easy to see the ball, but I never had any problem seeing it on red clay either. It does seem to be a shallow layer as the underlying dirt has been known to show through.
The players do not seem to be very comfortable sliding on it. It does appear to be slippery at times. Flavio Cippola was having a rough time in his match with Hanescu, losing his balance many times. I didn’t see Caroline Wozniaki fall, but she was branded by it.
I’m not sure about the low bouncing for top-spin balls, but I’ve seen some slices that mostly just skidded.