Ion Tiriac And His Dreaded Blue Clay


Ion Tiriac is a Romanian born businessman and former touring pro. He also is the owner of the Madrid Open, an upcoming prestigious clay court tournament.

That Tiriac decided to make a departure from the traditional European red clay to a blue, yes blue, clay surface for the 2012 version of the Madrid Open seems commensurate with his personality. Tiriac has always been, how shall I say it, different. And he seems to revel in his variance.

Blue happens to be my favorite color. So my most immediate question concerns the shade of blue that the clay will be. Will it be sky blue, navy blue or somewhere in the middle of the spectrum? That could be interesting.

Blue courts aren’t unprecedented. I’ve seen and played on lots of blue courts. I like them just fine. But the blue courts I’ve experienced have been either hard courts or a rather strange rubber surface overlay.

I could easily count the times I’ve played on clay. That sparse number has been predominately on American Har-Tru courts which are sort of greenish in color.

Twice I played on a clay surface of a dingy gray hue. I have no idea what the composite substance was but on any shot directed my way, the ball could just as easily roll to me as it often did bounce completely over my 6’2″ frame. There were divots, holes, rocks, or extremely hard lumps of clay on the surface that created hilariously unpredictable havoc.

Occasionally a ball would arrive somewhere within hitting range which was always an unexpected treat because I actually got to take a calculated swing at it. At those times it was as much fun watching my hitting partner try to deal with the shot as it was to have actually sent a ball back across the net.

I’ve never played on red clay. I hope to have that opportunity some day.

Another question I have is; how will the clay be made blue for the Madrid Open? Traditional red clay surface is made of crushed brick. Will the blue clay be crushed blue brick? Do blue bricks even exist? Surely they must.

I could be wrong but I don’t think a different color can be mixed with red clay to yield a blue color because blue is already a primary color. So that option is out.

Regardless of how the clay becomes blue, the most pertinent consideration is if the blue surface will play the same as red clay.

Nadal has already announced that he doesn’t like the idea. I would hazard a guess that his position is due mainly to his love of the traditional red stuff rather than an aversion to the color blue.

I think Nadal has a remarkable ability to change things about his game because he is always striving to become a more complete player. He has control over that.

But maybe changes that appear to not need alteration, like the color of the clay, are a little disconcerting for him. After all, as is evident during his matches (aligning his water bottles just so, laying towels exactly a certain way during change overs, etc.), Nadal is somewhat particular. Maybe even a little superstitious.

Apparently Nadal does not stand alone. Several other players are not particularly enamored with the change in color of the clay. I’ve not heard any specific reasons why except that it doesn’t seem necessary at this point during a season in progress.

Possibly, a transition of this nature would be more acceptable to players if it had been proposed and/or experimented with prior to the beginning of the clay court season.

On the plus side, I do think that, at least for television coverage, the contrast of the yellow ball against blue courts could make it much easier for fans to see. It could be an improvement.

While the timing of the change could be better, the idea may ultimately prove to have merit.

For the record, Nadal could probably win on psychedelic colored clay. I think the man was born with a gene that codes for playing tennis on clay courts.

If in fact the clay at the Madrid Open is blue but the courts play no differently than traditional red clay and fans have an enhanced viewing experience, then it’s possible that blue clay may become more widely used.

Time will tell.

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4 thoughts on “Ion Tiriac And His Dreaded Blue Clay

  1. It happen that blue is my color too!!! I like it and think the blue clay court is suited for a King!!! I read that is the same exact material, procedure, etc.. that is used for the blue clay. The color blue is a dye. Vamos Rafa, I am pretty sure he will adjust and win the tourney.

    • Pete
      That’s kind of what I figured too. Although some players have said the bounce is a bit different, lower on slices.
      I wouldn’t think that dyeing the clay could cause that. It’s going to be interesting for sure.

      • Roland Garros ‘red’ clay is not just crushed red brick. There is a dye involved in making the red clay. In this case its a blue dye. The courts are made by the same crew from Roland Garros.

      • You may be correct but I attended the 2008 French Open. It was a great experience. I asked an employee who was one of the court maintenance crew about the consistency of the courts. His answer was that they are made of crushed brick which is packed down and then rolled to make the sub floor. The playing surface is then laid on top of that. It consists of a combination of crushed shale, stone and brick.

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