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The Mutua Madrid Open is well and truly underway, but there is one significant outlier in the event’s recent history which occurred twelve years ago.


In 2012, tennis fans from around the world flicked on the Madrid Masters only to have to rub their eyes in shock as the court was blue.


The colour looked eerily similar to what you would see at Melbourne Park causing a few to wonder if the surface had changed, but it was clay.


Tournament owner Ion Tiriac decided to dye the courts for broadcast and viewing purposes with the aim to make the ball pop and be easier to see following complaints about the red surface making it difficult to track at times.


From the get go, it was met with controversy as the substance used to change the court colour made it slippery and harder to move, with defensive players suffering a tremendous disadvantage when it came to rallying and constructing points.


It even troubled the legends of the sport, with defending champion Novak Djokovic and the King of Clay Rafael Nadal falling in the quarterfinals and round of 16 respectively.


Both were absolutely scathing of the playing conditions and refused to mince words.


“I want to forget this week as soon as possible and move on to the real clay courts. Here you can't predict the ball bounce or movement,” Djokovic said after his loss to Janko Tipsarevic.


“They can do whatever they want, but I won't be here next year if this clay stays."


Nadal was equally as furious.


“Being able to move is very important for me and if I can’t move well, I can’t hit the ball well either,” he said.


“If things don’t change, this will be one less tournament on the calendar for me. This surface destabilises the game.


“It is a completely different game and I don’t want to take risks."


The Spaniard doubled down in 2016, labelling clay red and not any other surface.


“For sure, that was a bad decision in that moment.” Nadal said.

“I believe that the clay is red, we don’t have 100 tournaments on clay per year. The clay is part of the history of our sport.

“Comparing it to the sport’s other organic surface, I don’t see red grass, so I don’t like blue clay.”

Roger Federer would conquer the men’s singles with an epic victory over Tomas Berdych in the final, adding another accolade to his already illustrious list.

Serena Williams dispatched Victoria Azarenka in the women’s final to further cement her status as one of the greats of the sport.


Despite his title, Federer was sceptical about the surface but was diplomatic in his answer about players needing to adapt.


"If you want to be a good clay court player, you must be able to play everywhere. Madrid has taken a gamble with blue clay,” he said.


“It's always a little different here because of the altitude and we must sit down with the other players to discuss it.


"It is slippery, there's no doubt about that but that has been the case here for a few years.


“They haven't yet found the perfect balance. Our job each day is to adapt to the conditions that we face."


Djokovic has since said that he applauds the innovation for the sport, but still hoped to avoid it in the future.


The aesthetics of the courts were splendid, and despite Tiriac doubling down on his decision to dye the courts, the tournament reverted to red again in 2013 with hopes to possibly utilise it once more.


But with Madrid being such an important cog in the lead in to Roland Garros, could the tournament afford to make such a change that might disrupt the players’ preparation for the second major of the year?


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