Tennis: Check out the Smurf Clay in Madrid

The Madrid Open is underway, and instead of first round play, all anyone can talk about is the color of the clay…BLUE…which just happens to be the same color of the lead sponsor’s logo. You’d think the tournament was at Boise State!

The red clay of Madrid will instead be blue this year. Some have dubbed it “Smurf clay,” and that’s a description which aptly catches the hue. This shade of blue just happens to be the same color that the corporate sponsor of the event uses for their logos. Go figure.

Players have had mixed reactions so far. Maria Sharapova has politiely called it unique. Venus Williams has termed it a fashion statement. Andy Murray and Roger Federer are open to giving it a try. Novak Djokovic thinks it makes it harder to judge the bounce of the ball.

While it’s understandable to dismiss the fact that Rafael Nadal is the biggest critic because, let’s face it, he whines a lot. This one I have to agree with Nadal on. It’s a bad idea, and shouldn’t be allowed.

“I love all improvements (but this) is a mistake,” Nadal said. “The players win nothing. Tennis doesn’t win nothing. One person wins. Only the owner of the tournament wins.”

So far, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova have both advanced to the second round, Roger Federer, Andy Roddick and Rafael Nadal will all play on the blue this week, as well. Roger says he feels recharged after a monthlong break from tournament play, and is ready to challenge Djokovic for the #1-ranking.

Winners over the weekend include Juan Martin del Potro and Kaia Kanepi in Estoril; Kohlschreiber over Cilic in the Munich final; Andreas Seppi won the Serbian Open – where Novak Djokovic pulled-out because of the death of his grandfather; and Sara Errani won the final in Budapest.

Andy Murray just withdrew from the Madrid Open with back problems. He is scheduled to play next week in Rome.

Melanie Oudin earned a wild-card into the French Open this year, thanks to her clay court results in Alabama, Virginia and Charolttesville this Spring. After reaching a career high ranking of #31 in the world two years ago, she’s now ranked 278th.

Speaking of rankings – this week, Novak Djokovic is about 3000-points ahead of Rafa in the ATP Standings:

1  – Novak Djokovic
2  – Rafael Nadal
3  – Roger Federer
4  – Andy Murray
5  – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
6  – David Ferrer
7  – Tomas Berdych
8  – Janko Tipsarevic
9  – Mardy Fish
10  – John Isner

Victoria Azarenka is only 340-points ahead of Maria Sharapova in the WTA Rankings…Zvonareva is ranked 10th, but lost in the first round of the Madrid Open today:

1  – Victoria Azarenka
2  – Maria Sharapova
3  – Agnieszka Radwanska
4  – Petra Kvitova
5  – Samantha Stosur
6  – Caroline Wozniacki
7  – Marion Bartoli
8  – Na Li
9  – Serena Williams
10  – Vera Zvonareva