Djokovic Drops Hammer On Madrid Courts, Calls Center Court “Impossible To Move On”
by Sean Randall | May 8th, 2012, 4:19 pm

It’s one thing the slide on clay, it’s another to slip. Having watched about three hours of tennis today from the Madrid Tennis Masters Series, it’s clear the players are slipping, and slipping way too much. Almost to the point of danger.

And World No. 1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic isn’t pleased.

After a 3-set 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 struggle over Spanish qualifier Daniel Gimeno-Traver, Djokovic, who’s been critical of the surface, unloaded on the conditions (not the blue color) out on center today.

“To me that’s not tennis. Either I come out with football shoes or I invite Chuck Norris to advise me how to play on this court,” said Djokovic to the AP. “Center court is impossible to move on. I hit five balls throughout the whole match. With everything else, I was just trying to keep the ball in the court.”

(Chuck Norris? How did Ion Tiriac miss giving Chuck a spot in the tournament!)

And from seeing the match on TV, I agree. Djokovic didn’t look a like a player who trusted his movements at all on the court. In fact one point into the third set (or was it the second?) the match had to be halted for a further sweep of the slick-ery court after the Serb nearly tumbled.

“When you slide on the red clay you have a feeling you can stop and recover from that step. But here, whatever you do … you are always slipping,” he continued. “Not a single player — not woman not man — I didn’t hear anyone say ‘I like blue clay.'”

Tomorrow Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will have a “live go” out on the center. But I wonder given the widespread problems already with the surface and it’s distinct difference from the conditions at the French Open, just how willing the top players will risk.

I’ll have more on tomorrow’s matches and the tournament later. But as of now this publicity stunt is clearly backfiring.

You Might Like:
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Rafael Nadal Is Still Mad About Madrid’s Blue Clay, But At Least His Knee Is “Perfect”
Rafael Nadal: Winning 10 Is A Feeling That’s Impossible To Describe

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53 Comments for Djokovic Drops Hammer On Madrid Courts, Calls Center Court “Impossible To Move On”

Brando Says:

This seems to explain nole’s lack of focus in his performance. He must have been frustrated with the conditions. WHOEVER wins this tourny, it won’t have much of a bearing for FO, due to the great difference in playing conditions IMHO.

Brando Says:

Good article this one: djokovic leads outrage at Madrid blue clay.

skeezer Says:

Not good news. Hoping for everyones safety now, slippery is not good. ..This has nothing to do about the players liking the color or not…..and maybe they need to water it down?

Oleg Says:

Chuck Norris is the only man to ever defeat a brick wall in a game of tennis.

Brando Says:

@skeezer: I agree. Don’t care who wins this now- just hope rafa and everyone will be fine and not suffer any injury due to this circus act by the owner.

V Blacklabel Says:

So, it’ll be a lot like the old Hamburg tournament which had no bearing on Paris either.

Believe it or not, there was more to the tournament today than complaining about the clay, find out why school is out for Milos Raonic; why you’ve gotta love watching Monfils and hear McHale’s take on her loss to Stosur in her own words,

jane Says:

Thanks for that link Brando – mainly, I hope no one gets seriously injured!

Brando Says:

@jane: no worries- and I share the same sentiment re players. I also agree with your comment re Murray on the other thread. Wish rafa had done the same.

Epsilon Says:

Chuck Norris is the only one to have won a calendar year grand slam by 28 walk-overs!

Dave Says:

The problem with Djokovic is that he has been asking the wrong person (Chuck Norris) to teach him how to play on clay courts. No wonder he was frustrated with his footing in his 2011 French Open semifinal against Federer last year. Forget Chuck Norris. The young Grasshopper needs to ask Kwai Chang Caine’s and his Master for advice on how to walk on rice paper.

Second, football boots are meant for a grass football pitch, not a sandy clay court. But Djokovic has revealed that players are using the wrong shoes, and their sponsors are paying them big bucks to keep using the wrong shoes. Given this, I’ve designed a new tennis shoe to give players a sure footing and change direction on these blue courts. It’s called Dave’s De-whiner Deluxe and costs only $189.99… with the special inserts it’s only $299.99. Hurry, place your orders while stocks last :)

It’s sad that today’s players – or rather the few who whine like colossal whiners — have become spoiled by the relatively homogenous and high quality court conditions in recent years. In past decades, players had to deal with and adapt to a much wider variety of court conditions – even slippery clay and grass courts.

Now these wussies claim can’t play if the courts are outside their narrow specifications, lol. Players tend to whine whenever they feel court conditions negate their strengths or when they lose. Yet, you’d think that players who move the best on clay, such as Nadal, would have an advantage over everybody else. And the general quality of tennis in Madrid so far hasn’t been worse than the first and second rounds of Monte Carlo and Barcelona. And there were probably more actual injury problems with the Monte Carlo courts due to weather problems. If players had their way, there would be no differences between the courts of Monte Carlo, Rome, Madrid and Barcelona. And they wouldn’t play beach volleyball either.

Djokovic and Nadal – and this applies to Federer too (if he starts whining to excuse subpar play as opposed to ) — need to stop whining and watch Milos Raonic (who doesn’t move as well as Novak or Rafa, yet played and moved well against a former top player who is experienced on clay). The blue clay didn’t seem to affect the Canadian. Raonic said: “I got here early and have been training for almost a week on it. I like the conditions (but) the only tricky thing is the movement. It’s not a natural clay so it bundles up after some time. You get a few bad bounces, but other than that it’s not so different. It’s slippery and hard to change direction, but that benefits me in a way.” Bear in mind that Raonic’s training base is the same Spanish Real tennis club that hosts the Barcelona Open – boasting 18 of the highest-quality clay courts in the world – yet Milos is not whining. Instead he is focusing on winning (“Federer’s set a new level for others to aim for. But on court he’s trying to take away from you something that you want.”). That’s the right attitude. No wonder Raonic is No. 8 in terms of ranking points won this year.

(Poor Federer, coming back from a long break, has the toughest second round match up of any seeded player (including Nadal-Davydenko and Isner-Cilic as Nikolay and Marin are both No. 61 and No. 62 respectively in terms of points won year to date).

grendel Says:

Djokovic says:” “Not a single player — not woman not man — I didn’t hear anyone say ‘I like blue clay.’”

Well, the implication here is that all the players dislike the blue – because if they are just neutral, then there is no point at issue. However, Sharapova said:”It’s not so much about the colour. It does look good on television. But it plays a bit different. It’s about the amount of clay on the court and the way it bounces,” she said.

“You have to get used to it but I came here after winning Stuttgart and got in four or five days on it. I got settled in so it’s just a matter of adjusting. It’s also the same for everyone.”

Simon – said to be “scathing” about the blue – said:”I see no difference from last year, these have always been the worst court of the clay season. I could have sprained something practising,” complained the Frenchman.

“There are other priorities ahead of making it blue – it should be better.” So Simon is criticising the clay courts in Madrid as such – not the blue in particular.

And finally, good old Serena:”“I haven’t noticed a difference between the blue and the red clay. I think it’s the same, it’s just you don’t get as dirty,” .

Perhaps Djokovic didn’t do his homework as Sharapova clearly did? Also, isn’t there that old saw about the workman blaming his tools? Not sneering at Djokovic for this – it’s an absolutely natural thing to do when things haven’t gone quite to plan, who hasn’t done it? Also, Djokovic may have a bit of a point. Just that methinks the lad doth protest a wee bit too much.

racquet Says:


jane Says:

Though the general consensus does seem to be, blue or not, the court is more slippery.

Dave Says:

Grendel is right about how the views of some players have been taken out of context, often by some of the news media. And some of the news media has portrayed sound bites from a few players as if they represented the majority of the over 150 players in the main and qualifying draws. How many people has Djokovic actually spoken with? 5 to 10 players do not add up to a general consensus. Just because Novak hasn’t heard anyone say they like blue clay doesn’t mean there isn’t anyone who likes it. At this stage we just don’t know as we don’t have the information. Presumably the ATP Player Council is quietly gathering the views of players over the next few days, without inflaming the situation and hurting Tennis.

As well, the Madrid organizers have so far done a poor PR job (unless they have something up their sleeve to be revealed in the next few days). They’ve only added to the confusion by insisting that the courts are identical to red clay — contradicting the players — yet just giving a cursory explanation of how the blue courts are made and laid that’s identical to the process for red courts.

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Funny, the players had seemed pretty unanimous in opining blue=slippery, but then there are these three voices of dissent (Sharapova, Williams, Simon) who just happen to be, in my very personal opinion as a fan of none of the three, to be among the more intelligent players on tour. Is that a mean spirited thing to say?

Anna Says:

Well, let’s take a look at who those whiners might be. Oh! There also known as the winners. Because as we pull away from the top 5 nobody gives a hangnail what the have to say. It’s the whiners/winners who are bombarded with questions (quite often the same question)day in and day out, and God forbid they should mention that their playing environment is unsafe, because just like the Monday morning quarterback, there’s always a few jugheads who more than likely have never stepped foot on a tennis court who think they know better than the pros and counter their objections by calling them “pussies”. Everyone benefits from the whiner/winners. They’re the only ones who can make sure the courts are safe to play on, and yes they’d rather not break an ankle or an arm in pursuit of their livlihood. I don’t know anyone who would.

As for Milos, he’s a newbie and not really in the position to make much of a stink. Give him a few years and pass the torch and I’m confident he’d do the same, for himself and everyone else on the tour.

nadalista Says:

Oh, so Rafa wasn’t just being his “usual whiny self”?

…………..the smurf courts ARE dangerous…because Nole said so.


jane Says:

Anna, like your chutzpah. As you say “Everyone benefits from the whiner/winners.” – And recent history holds true. It was the top four, apparently, who helped to raise the purse of early slam *losers*. So yeah – hear hear to the whiners/winners! ;)

carlo Says:

That’s one way to look at it, Anna. I see it differently. But, I’m a cycling and tennis fan and to me, the greats in cycling, the Grand Tour winners, are the ones who don’t absolutely specialize in one discipline necessarily, (homogenization of court surfaces), but can adapt, train, and become close to the best if not the best on any stage race be it at high altitude, sea level, windy, rainy, cobblestones, pavement, steratti, wide, narrow, flat, hilly, climb the Zoncolan or Angrilu after three weeks of an average 250 km’s daily, have the bike handling skills to descend on a technically challenging descent, and include being in the top ten at least in the individual time trial against the clock. Grand Tours have all the elements in their stages to truly test a wide range of skills and at the end the best wins. A truly all-around great not only does one thing well but spends time in a wind tunnel improving, what to me is a boring but important skill, that individual time trial, requiring practice time on even a different type of bicycle than used on the other stages.

It’s nice to have varied conditions and surfaces; also think it’s a learning curve of how successfully one trains and manages the entire season, not only winning during one season. Definition of an “all court” player would mean nothing if all conditions and surfaces were the same. Personally I appreciate the variety in tournaments and hope it stays that way. I think they should at least include a masters 1000 tournament (maybe not mandatory) in Davos, Switzerland on blue clay, just to make it more exciting.:D tennis players are pampered athletes at the top in general, compared to some other athletes.

But I’m in the minority, I realize. I’d like having 20 players truly competing for the win instead of 3 or 4 superheroes and likely winners. I want them challenged, not having it all one way. It’s more interesting and elevates the degree of difficulty of the skills required and the sport.

Into The Blue: Federer Opens Clay Season Against Raonic In Madrid, Rafa Looks To Resume Roll Says:

[…] after the three days of play the reviews having been decidedly negative and World No. 1 Novak Djokovic called into the question the conditions following a win today. Now, the two biggest stars in the sport, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, will have their say on […]

skeezer Says:


spot on post. Just because Madrid doesn’t segway into Rafa’s glory hole doesn’t mean diddly squat. Wimby changed, as a fan imo didn’t like it, but my fav adjusted and won, and the fans did too. Much better viewing.

I am also in probably in the minority here, but making a effort to change for the viewing audience who really “pays the bill” for the players is not a bad thing. IT seems tis whole fiasco was a communication breakdown. I am sure the players would want the same, but both organizers and players need to come up with better ideas together to make tennis more appealing. Do they want more dollars? Sure, who doesn’t it. Keep pushing ahead….

The main concern here is they need to address the surface as a safety factor, IF what they are saying is true. It will only take one bad fall by a top player and this tourney would be a major black mark. Keep it blue, fix the issues, and move on, Players will adjust, and makes the game more exciting. More surfaces with variance, the greater proof of who is really the best tennis player.

Michael Says:

The blue courts of Madrid is fast and is not bouncy as in other clay courts. But regarding the ground conditions, it is the players themselves who experience with the surface can comment. Some players have hailed this surface while the top players namely Novak and Nadal are having misapprehensions. From the perspective of Novak, it seems sliding on this court might be difficult and probably he needs some time to adjust his game in this court. It is premature for Novak to much such hasty comments early on about the utility of this court.

jane Says:

I don’t mind surface variance, and I don’t think “blue” is what’s really at issue here. What matters is how it plays; more specifically that no one gets seriously injured. If those issues can be ironed out, who cares if it’s blue or red? Just so long as the players are safe. I am of the mind that no sport is worth risking one’s health – or in some cases life (!) – for, but that’s just me.

grendel Says:

“I am of the mind that no sport is worth risking one’s health – or in some cases life (!) ”

Jes’s, jane, breathing can be a risk, crossing the road has been known to be lethal. Sitting under a tree can have the odd consequence of attracting lightening. Life itself is a precarious investment with terminal conclusion guaranteed. And risk generally is at the heart of anything worthwhile.

That doesn’t mean recklesness is to be advocated, of course not. (Although most of us have a sneaking admiration for those who skip along the margins of danger – Vivian Richards going into bat against express bowling and disdaining to wear a helmet sort of thing). Controlled risk, perhaps.

I think Djokovic will survive…

Moran Says:

I agree with Nole 100%! I hope he and Rafa and the rest of the top players withdraw and show the ATP enough is enough!

dari Says:

The court has got to be safe. It’s hard to tell if its just a little awkward, difficult to change direction or just downright hazardous. I hope it doesn’t have to take someone getting hurt to find out.

dari Says:

And how is Serena just saying its the same?! Before the tourney she said she could play on ice of she had to, and according to some, she is. BTW its TERRIBLE that we cannot see the ladies matches here!

carlo Says:

Well, the thick, clumpy clay at one end of the central court at Monte Carlo was dangerous, just ask Juan Monaco or Julien Benneteau. Tennis is a relatively tame sport compared to say, even ice hockey or NFL football. Ankles get twisted on any surface. This surface is more slippery (blue court) – give it a chance. Okay, maybe it ends up favoring the non-movers over the movers. After watching the highlights, qualifier Daniel Gimeno-Traver had one small advantage over the top seed: he went through qualifying and perhaps practiced on it more. In the end, it appeared to me that Djokovic adjusted. Gimeno-Traver in the 2nd set played nothing to lose tennis, which is often the case, when the top player is the opponent. Might as well give it their all, and that’s what Gimeno-Traver did. Gimeno-Traver is a mover, a clay court type, but he’d spent time on the surface.

Can’t wait to hear what Federer has to say :D

Dave Says:

How can the players be “unanimous” in opining blue=slippery? So far we have heard sound bites from only about 5% of the 176 players in the main and qualifying draws. 5% is not unanimous… it’s a tiny minority. And it’s too early to jump to conclusions. Once players have more experience on the blue clay and the views of most players are gathered, we’ll have a better idea of what the majority of players think.

Hmmm. If the winners are the biggest whiners, are they really whining because these courts reduce their chances of winning as it negates some of their strengths? Raonic is not unhappy because these courts play into his strengths.

These wussies (not pussies) who exaggerate their playing environment is unsafe sound more and more like whiny exaggerators with each pasing day. Already 115 (71%) of 161 total matches (mens, womens, qualifying) have been completed. Do the jugheads who blindly support these wussies have proof of anyone injured due to the blue clay? How many other ‘normal’ tournaments have had injuries by now? In another 46 matches without injury this tournament might end up as one of the safest tournaments, despite the whining. And even if they are injuries in the remaining 46 matches, it needs to be considered against the norm/average for injuries in tournaments.

Tennis players have protested against most innovations in Tennis, so not everyone benefits from the whiny winners.

It was really the ATP Player Council, led by Federer, that led the effort to raise the purse of early losers and deadbeats at some Slams… The Player Council’s strategy was to send a negotiation team with its president Federer and vice-president Nadal along with Djokovic and Murray

Carlo: Bianchi, Pinarello or Colnago?

carlo Says:

Ha! I would take any of the 3, if I could afford one, Dave. But it’s the rider on the bike that really makes the magic.

Italian managed team Liqugas uses Cannondale – but it’s riders like Salvodelli and now this kid, Vincenzo Nibali, who can ride a technical descent I admire. Also can time trial decently and never complains about the stages….just rides….

carlo Says:

He can climb too, not like Contador but ” Lo Squalo” , Nibs nickname won the a Grand Tour, Vuelta a Espana in 2010. Not as hyped as the Tour de France but …..all the difficulty. Giro d’ Italia stage 4 is what I’m streaming now. One more on Nibs. Check out the Bunny hop when he was making up time after falling a little behind Contador last year.

jane Says:

grendel, I didn’t mean tennis, but more extreme sports, perhaps jumping out of a plane. I’d never do it. Of course we can never cheat the reaper but we can calcuate the odds and risks and to me some sports aren’t worth it.

As for injury, well it would also suck if a player hurt himself and lost a good portion of the season – like those players who were hurt at Monte Carlo.

carlos is right – the courts were apparently not so great there either. But Simon implied the very worst have always been Madrid.

grendel Says:

I don’t think you can categorically say some sports aren’t worth it, because it depends where you are coming from. Some people have a need, apparently, to court death. Actually, in my own tiny way I have experienced this need, as I believe have many. Every time you cross the road, knowing that if you slip it’s curtains, you are playing a little game with death. It’s foolish and also selfish (think of the poor driver), but it is a strange compulsion, which after the deed one instantly regrets. Once, I worked in a hostel in Darwin as a kitchen porter. Sometimes, I’d be carrying an immense pile of plates. The temptation just to drop the bloody lot, and see them all go crashing, broken to the ground, plus losing your job of course, was sometimes almost irresistable. I have been told that that, too, is a sort of disguised dance with death. I think many, many people have experiences of this sort, which is probably why extreme risk in sport captures such widespread attention.

Of course your point that injury to a player deprives us, the spectators, is a pragmatic one, and needs to be weighed.

jane Says:

For me, they’re not worth it.

jane Says:

But I totally get the plate smashing idea, and I do have some of the Imp of the Perverse in me. I guess I would go about my danse macabre in other ways, not via high risk sports. Anyhow, I do understand you grendel. I could’ve sworn it was Kierkegaard who said something like a piano could fall on one’s head at any given moment, and that would be that. Absurd though it is, he makes a point.

carlo Says:

lol, grendel about your urge to: “drop the bloody lot, and see them all go crashing,plus losing your job of course, was sometimes irresistible.”

When I was 10 years old, sitting in church and thought the preacher would never end, I’d entertain myself, being on the verge of it, with the idea of standing up suddenly and screaming at the top of my lungs, “this is Bull Sh!t!” followed by something like, “we should all be skiing!!”Of course sitting by my mom, I’d look at her and smile with the thought, she would assume I was enjoying the service, then realize the punishment would likely be not worth it. Like no skiing for the rest of the season, plus a bunch of other stuff, making a public apology, that sort of thing. Writing to everyone in the church how sorry I was.

carlo Says:

Sorry, going off topic. I’m not sure what my story had to do with anything. Oh yeah, the dance with death. Well it’s not exactly that is it? But I do like some excitement, variety, and surprises in the sports I watch.

Jack Lewis Says:

Blue clay brings the high quality posts like calling players who find the conditions extremely slippery wussies; Simon, Djokovic… LOL I guess some have strange smurf fetishes out there…

skeezer Says:


“I always felt that this tournament even with the red clay was the most slippery I have ever played on,”

Polo Says:

OK, now add Isner to the list of “wussies”.

jane Says:

Even after beating Davy soundly, Rafa said “”The court is not one that makes you feel comfortable,” “The court is a difficult court, it’s very slippery and it makes supporting movements and getting back to defend very tough. But the only thing we can do now is turn the page and we are not going to get the red courts back tomorrow so we have to adapt to the blue courts and the conditions as well as possible and hope for a change next year.”

Brando Says:


Thanks- i was going to post the exact same thing but you beat me to it.

Even though i am a rafa fan- to me what rafa said there seems fair and reasonable.

And it also supports djokovic comments- and others have also mentioned this- that the MAIN issue is how slippery the surface is.

Oh well, not much else the players can do other than play on in this tourny and HOPEFULLY not get hurt.

alison hodge Says:

Jane I think its like you said in an earlier post,the colour is neither here nor there,its the safety of the players thats come into question,its too slippery Tipsaravic was sliding all over the place,and nearly went over in his match at one point,a number of players are not looking too happy about it so far.

jane Says:

I agree with you both – fair comments, and definitely the issue is the slipperiness not the colour. Makes me think of grass, with all this slipperiness. Maybe they should move Madrid after the FO and make it a grass masters! So from red, to blue, to green. And wasn’t it grey hard court before that too. We could write a book on the many colours of Madrid. ;)

Brando Says:


It’s funny- and correct that you think that- madrid makes you think of grass. Rafa thinks so too- that’s why apparently he asked for the trainers he wears during the grass court season, but was refused for whatever reason.

good observation.

skeezer Says:


I wouldn’t want to be facing Isner and call him a wussie lol ;)

jane Says:

Really, Brando – did Rafa say that? When? I makes sense, though, since the court plays fast, ball bounces low, surface is slippery, etc. Hmmm, interesting. This could provide a little forecasting for the Olympics/Wimbledon perhaps?

grendel Says:

According to Sky sports commentators – I think it was Petchey – Madrid is faster than Wimbledon.

Brando Says:

@Grendel: I would agree with petchey. Madrid does seem to be faster.

skeezer Says:

^Wimby is not fast anymore

King Federer Says:

It looks to me that the slippery conditions are the issue. Do rafa and co have proof that making courts blue was the reason they got slippery? If they have always been slippery, the issue is a totally different one.

We have to wait and see what the atp report says. If blue clay really is the reason, then be done with it. If it is not, let’s go blue.

Let us not make the top players martyrs. They need to keep the lower rank players happy and not disgruntled. tennis can ill-afford a strike. Most people already think Golf is a better sport than tennis. In the US, bowling/drag racing is more popular than tennis.

Without the US market, tennis will be another joke of a sport like badminton/ping pong. the day that tennis joins those sports might be sooner than we think.

DeannieG Says:

As for the blue clay, Federer was slipping and sliding like everyone else. These tennis tournaments are a competition of endourance, skill and experience. – not for the faint hearted! If you want to call yourself a champion, act like one and adjust – like Federer and others did. You don’t hear others complaining like Nadal and Djokavich, a champion sucks it up and adjusts. Deal with it guys.

DeannieG Says:

Federer was slipping and sliding like everyone else. I’m sure most of the players if asked found the blue clay difficult to play on – but rather than throwing temper tantrums like Nadal and Djokavich, they adjusted to the court conditions. Excuse me, but it IS A TOUNAMENT which means a test of endurance, skill and grit. A player of “champion” caliber will adjust to the court conditions rather than be spoiled brats like Nadal and Djokavich. A true champion say like a Federer will suck it up and deal with it. Grow up guys!

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