By Tumaini Carayol
(May 3, 2013) MADRID – In grand pursuit of their fabled holy grail – an extension to a two week event that would mark it a true equal of the Miami and Indian Wells events – the organizers of the Madrid Open have pushed the boundaries as far as they can stretch. The event is exclusively advertised as a ten-day tournament, beginning on the Friday and flowing into a second Sunday.
Not many fans responded on Friday, but at a tournament where the majority of televised matches paint a picture of an empty event unable to attract much interest in one of the most notable cities in the world, the presence of any single fan delighting in a qualifying match between 90-something-ranked female players is perhaps cause for celebration.
The lack of action around the grounds was mirrored behind the scenes as Victoria Azarenka fielded questions to a four-fifths empty media centre. Even during the peak days of the biggest tournaments, this is standard fare for the former world number one who continues in her epic age-old struggle to win over the press, but it was a pitiful showing regardless. Still, the Belarusian arrived with a spring in her step as she fielded questions ahead of her first full tournament since February.
“I feel good,” she said. “I’m really glad to be back playing, and can’t wait to start the tournament and see where my game is at. You know, it’s a very good place to start. It’s a very competitive field right away, so I’m glad to be a part of it. It’s a great preparation for the French Open.”
Maria Sharapova followed almost immediately afterwards. In stark contrast to her rival, the Russian is considerably easier to crack open. After being asked by Tennis Panorama about her brief trip back to the Motherland, the world number two smiled and positively gushed in reply
“It was chaos, “ she laughed. “It was really nice to be back for just a couple days, but it was such a quick trip. Yeah, I rarely go back there, but it’s such a nice welcome when I do. I sometimes forget how ‑‑ I don’t know what I mean to the sport there and in general. It was nice to have that sort of reception back in my home country and see a lot of fans.
“I mean, the event that we had for Sugarpova was incredibly successful. It blows my mind way every time I see that type of reception because I consider myself quite normal and not so recognizable at times. When I’m there it’s a whole different ballgame.
Later came Li Na. As per usual, even the most formulaic and standard questions were transformed by the 2011 French Open champion into charming and entertaining retorts. However, the most interesting answer from the Chinese number one came when she decided to discuss her much-publicized collaboration with Justine Henin’s former coach, Carlos Rodriguez.
“Actually I was feeling pretty good from beginning of the year until now. I was training so hard with Carlos. Yeah, he didn’t come with me in Stuttgart, so when I was here, so many people just ask me, ‘Are you still working with Carlos?’ I said, ‘Of course.’’’
‘’So, yeah, he will be come here. I mean, I was, how you say, so happy he can come to my team to coach me. I think for me, he’s not only tennis coach. I think after I was working with him I feel much stronger in my mind and also much stronger on the court.
Later on, the main draws were conducted in the public plaza beside the courts. The ladies were first, with top-seeded Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka drawn into the same half as Sharapova was granted a significantly easier prospective route to the final. The men’s draw came later as most fans began to plan their final exits. After long and tiring discussions about 5th-seeded Nadal’s prospective placement in the draws of the upcoming clay-court events, the Barcelona champion slotted inconspicuously into David Ferrer’s quarter.
And with that, a quiet and understated first day in Madrid concluded. Despite what the numerous advertising hoardings around the city may suggest, tomorrow the tournament shall truly begin.
Tumaini Carayol is in Madrid covering the Madrid tournament for Tennis Panorama News. He is a contributing writer at On The Baseline, and writes about professional tennis at his site Foot Fault.
MUTUA MADRID OPEN
May 4-12, 2013
Order Of Play – Saturday, May 4, 2013
Manolo Santana (from 11.00hrs)
1. ATP: García-López vs. Andreev
2. Camila Giorgi vs. Garbiñe Muguruza (NB 12.30hrs; Singles Q Final)
3. Sara Sorribes-Tormo vs. Alexandra Dulgheru (Singles Q Final)
4. Sloane Stephens vs. Daniela Hantuchova
5. Urszula Radwanska vs. Sara Errani (NB 19.00hrs)
6. Lourdes Domínguez Lino vs. Simona Halep
Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario (from 11.00hrs)
1. ATP: Riba vs. Donskoy
2. Yulia Putintseva vs. Aravane Rezai (Singles Q Final)
3. ATP: Sanjurjo Hermida vs. Haase
4. Magdalena Rybarikova vs. Laura Robson
5. Jankovic/Lucic-Baroni vs. Groenefeld/Peschke
Stadium 3 (from 11.00hrs)
1. ATP: Malisse vs. Muñoz-de la Nava
2. ATP: Ramírez Hidalgo vs. Rufin
3. Julia Goerges vs. Bojana Jovanovski
4. Sabine Lisicki vs. Sofia Arvidsson
5. Mona Barthel vs. Kirsten Flipkens
Pista 4 (from 11.00hrs)
1. María-Teresa Torró-Flor vs. Johanna Larsson (Singles Q Final)
2. Chanelle Scheepers vs. Melanie Oudin (NB 12.30hrs; Singles Q Final)
3. ATP: Falla vs. Souza
Pista 5 (from 11.00hrs)
1. ATP: Matosevic vs. González
2. ATP: Berlocq vs. Stakhovsky
3. ATP: Llodra vs. Kubot
4. ATP: Sijsling vs. Brugués-Davi
Pista 6 (from 11.00hrs)
1. ATP: Gómez-Herrera vs. Kamke
2. ATP: Sousa vs. Giraldo
3. ATP: Cipolla vs. Levine
4. ATP: Elias vs. Mathieu (NB 15.00hrs)
Pista 7 (from 11.00hrs)
1. Christina McHale vs. Mathilde Johansson (Singles Q Final)
2. Stefanie Voegele vs. Lesia Tsurenko (Singles Q Final)
3. Madison Keys vs. Bethanie Mattek-Sands (Singles Q Final)
4. Alizé Cornet vs. Kiki Bertens
5. Grandin/Uhlirova vs. Moulton-Levy/Rosolska