By Lisa-Marie Burrows
Mutua Madrid Open, Madrid – Popstars draw people into their concerts, football teams have supporters cheering them on and Rafael Nadal draws in the crowd at La Caja Mágica – and there were few seats left in the giant Manolo Santana stadium whilst the ‘King of Clay’ was playing against Nikolay Davydenko. The Spanish world No.1 knocked out the Russian in the second round with a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 victory.
There was an eerie feeling outside of the arena where there are so many shops and activities for children and adults to do that have been enjoyed by many during the last few days – until today. Most matches played at the same time as Nadal’s were empty, including the match of his compatriot and rival in his third round match, Fernando Verdasco.
Throughout the match Rafael Nadal was adorned with many chants of “Raf-a” from around the stadium with cheers that were reminiscent of a Spanish Davis Cup match as his loyal fans watched him skid and slide his way into a ruthless victory over Nikolay Davydenko. Every winner struck from the world No.2’s racquet was accompanied with ear-piercing screams, whistles and claps and he certainly rose to the occasion today.
During his press conference, it was not his fantastic tennis today which was topic of conversation, once again Nadal was asked questions about the change of colour and the surface of the clay, but he made it very clear that he did not want to keep talking about this matter anymore:
“This tournament is not just about talking about the blue clay or the conditions. We all have the same conditions and start from scratch on the blue court. I’m talking about everything here but tennis.”
Despite wishes not to continue discussing the court, as he would prefer to talk about his tennis, the Spanish world No.1 made it very clear that the tournament should not be mentioned in such a negative way all of the time and it is special to him:
“The tournament here cannot be better, it’s fantastic. It’s one of the best for the public and followers of tennis. If I lose here it’s because I’m not as good as I should be, not because of the courts.”
The Mutua Madrid Open is one of few home tournaments in Spain for Nadal and many have continued to ask for his opinion about the tournament, but he modestly points out how the changes involve everyone, not just him:
“My opinion is not important, here I am one player, there are many more and they have opinions.”
Nadal admitted that he had asked if he could change the shoes he would normally wear for clay to grass court shoes but was denied the request:
“I can’t play with grass shoes, we play with what we have to. We have to adapt.”
Next up for the home hero is friend and compatriot Fernando Verdasco who scraped through a tricky three set match 6-7, 6-4, 6-4 against Falla and during his press conference after his victory he is hoping Nadal does not have a good day tomorrow and joked about not sharing his tactics should he choose to change them:
“If I do [have different tactics], I’m not going to tell you! I don’t want him to know about it. Hopefully I will have a good day and things will work fine and hopefully he will not have a great day too and play bad!”
Fernando Verdasco will have his work cut out against him tomorrow in front of his hometown crowd:
“Tomorrow is going to be one of the toughest matches I have had here in Madrid, he is the best player on the clay court and he knows that, but I will go out there and try.”
Lisa-Marie Burrows is currently in Madrid covering the Mutua Madrid Open and will be at the Rome Masters next week. Catch her as a regular contributor for TennisBloggers.com and on Twitter: @TennisNewsViews.