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Memories of Madrid: Surface Switch can’t slow down Rafa, Model Ball Girls and Blue Clay

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Editor’s Note: This story first appeared on May 4, 2020

First held in 2002 on hard courts, the Mutua Madrid Open moved to clay and a new venue, La Caja Magica, in 2009. ATPTour.com looks back on some memorable moments in Madrid.

2002: The first edition

In the Casa de Campo, a few minutes from the city center, the Madrid Arena hosted the first edition of the Mutua Madrid Open, replacing a Masters 1000 tournament held in Stuttgart. Built for the failed Madrid 2012 Olympic bid, the hard-court indoor tournament ended with then-32-year-old Andre Agassi winning a then-record 15th Masters 1000 title without touching a ball. His opponent in the final, Jiri Novak, had torn a groin muscle the day before, towards the end of his semi-final victory over Fabrice Santoro, who had beaten Roger Federer in the quarter-finals.

2004: Model Ball Girls

The Masters 1000 tournament replaced traditional ball boys and girls with female models for the third edition. After two weeks of training, the professional models, aged 19 to 28, were selected from Spanish agencies. Marat Safin, who beat David Nalbandian for the 2004 title, said: “Models mean people are still talking about tennis. Good publicity, bad publicity. It does not matter. Agassi, the first champion, initially joked: “It was difficult, to say the least, to focus on the ball. But I guess I had an advantage, I used to play with my wife [former WTA World No. 1 Steffi Graf]. “

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2005: Nadal Edges Ljubicic for the first of five crowns

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It was one of the best matches in Mutua Madrid Open history: Rafael Nadal, 19, already winner of 10 tour-level titles in 2005, facing Ivan Ljubicic, who was having one of the best seasons of his career . . At a time when the Masters 1000 finals were contested on the best of five sets, Ljubicic quickly won the first two sets before Nadal showed great courage and determination to fight for victory over more than four hours. “It’s one of the best memories I have from this tournament,” said Nadal, recalling his triumph 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (3). “I remember that in large part thanks to the support of the public, I was able to reverse the game and ultimately win a final.” Now 33, Nadal has won a tournament record five titles (2005, 2010, 2013-14, 2017) in eight finals (2005, 2009-11, 2013-15, 2017).

2009: under new ownership, change of place and date

Ion Tiriac, a former player turned billionaire businessman, became the tournament’s new owner in 2009, coinciding with the move from hard courts to a clay court event; in La Caja Magica, a multi-purpose stadium with three courts in the Manzanares Park tennis center, and a change of schedule from October to May. Ten years later, Tiriac told his native Romanian press that holding the combined event now benefits the city of Madrid for more than 107 million euros.

2012: Blue clay

Concerned about innovation, Tiriac proposed to transform the red clay of Madrid into blue for the 2012 edition, for the benefit of viewers around the world. While only one outside blue court had been available for player testing in 2011, with capacity crowds inside the three demonstration courts the following year, the blue clay proved to be too slippery and the consistency of the rebound was uneven. Nadal and defending champion Novak Djokovic were skeptical and both lost early, while Federer took the trophy with a 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 victory over Tomas Berdych. The organizers of the Madrid tournament returned to red clay in 2013.

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Djokovic, Murray, Federer, Nadal, Serena Williams

2013: In Memory Of Brad

Two days after the death of Brad Drewett, executive chairman and president of ATP, 54, from motor neuron disease (also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), stars of the ‘ATP and WTA Tours took to the stadium court for a minute. silence. Drewett, the former Australian player, had been involved in the sport for over 40 years. Djokovic said: “This is devastating news not only for us tennis players but also for the tennis world. He was a very brave man with the courage to stand up and try to change some things in our sport for the better. We remember him as a very calm, composed and intelligent man who loved the sport with all his heart, as he played, coached and then as president of ATP.

2018: Santana hands over the reins

Manuel Santana, winner of four Grand Slam singles titles, who helped Madrid become a world-class event as tournament director, had an assistant in the form of Feliciano Lopez in 2018. Lopez, who had played in the 16 editions of the tournament, learned the ropes of event management before taking over in 2019. At the time, Lopez was the second active player to be named tournament director after former No. 2, was appointed to the same position for the BNP Paribas Open in India Wells in June 2016. Santana, now Honorary President of the Madrid tournament. said: “The Mutua Madrid Open is and always will be my home. It took a lot of work for us to make this tournament happen and I will always work to help it grow.

2019: Djokovic wins third Madrid title

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Djokovic arrived at the Mutua Madrid Open two years ago with the aim of rekindling the kind of form that led him to the 2019 Australian Open title. With a quarter-final appearance in his last three tournaments , the world No. 1 defeated double finalist Dominic Thiem 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4) in the semi-finals before beating Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-4 for a 33rd Masters 1000 title ( with Nadal). “These are the best tournaments, the biggest tournaments that we have in our sport, in ATP, of course alongside the Grand Slam,” said Djokovic, who also won the Madrid title in 2011 and 2016. “C ‘is as important and as good as it receives. “

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