Rafael Nadal of Spain poses with Novak Djokovic of Serbia after their final of the Monte Carlo tennis Masters in Monaco (Photo: Reuters)
After the Monte Carlo Masters ended with the predictable Rafa Nadal triumph, the world's top tennis players are set to face something entirely different when they head to Madrid to play on blue clay for the first time.
Nadal, who ended a seven-match losing streak to Novak Djokovic to clinch a record eighth consecutive Monte Carlo crown on Sunday, was concerned about the change of surface colour midway through the six-week European clay-court season.
The May 6-13 Madrid Masters is followed by the Rome Masters the following week before the French Open starts on May 27.
"You have back-to-back Madrid and Rome," said Nadal, who lost both finals to Djokovic last year.
"Madrid is the only tournament you are playing with high altitude, and then now you are putting a different colour of clay. There can't be too much difference between Madrid and Rome."
While the change to blue could make sense from a marketing perspective (blue is the colour of the Madrid event's main sponsor, Mutua) and organisers say it also makes the ball easier to see for spectators, Nadal said the tournament's history was what make it stand out.
"This tournament is big because the history is there," said the Spaniard. "Best players in history played in this court."
World number four Andy Murray, who won the Madrid tournament in 2008, was unsure how the clay colour change would pan out.
"The timing of it is what makes it difficult for the players," he added. "I've never played on a blue claycourt before. I have no idea how the surface will play. So that will be a new experience."
The Scot also said that the blue clay "makes the tournament unique and a bit different (which) is good for the tour".
Djokovic, who is aiming for a fourth consecutive grand slam victory at Roland-Garros, said changes were needed to improve the tour and to have more attractive venues but thought the players were not listened to when it came to major makeovers.
"As far as I know, most of the top players I talked to, nobody agreed. I never played on blue clay. Rafa didn't. Roger (Federer) didn't. If you don't have the top players agreeing on that, it doesn't make sense for me really," Djokovic said.
"It's going to be interesting to step on the blue clay obviously. I'm not blaming them ... But definitely there is a certain rule within the ATP that the president is able to make decisions by himself without having players agree to that.
"That rule has to be changed because it's not fair," said the Serb, adding that he had heard mixed reports about the bounce on the clay from players who had tested it.
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