Thank you almighty tennis Gods, the drought is over! Yes, I realize that, technically, tennis has been played – and even televised – since the US Open, but none of it has mattered like a Master Series does. This is the kind of tennis event that makes me fire up the TIVO and plan couch-friendly dinner menus.
The Madrid Masters – a.k.a. the Mutua Madrilena, is still in its fetal stages, but it’s already developed some character. Here are some random thoughts:
1. The MMMM has to be the most commercial tennis tournament in existence. One hardly notices the players on the court, what with the ever-morphing electronic billboards, sparkly Hugo Boss body jewels, and (my favorite) neon-yellow towels sponsored by Schweppes. Heck, the ball kids/models and the lines people even sport dueling apparel sponsors. Next year the players will probably be driven onto the court in Mercedes.
2. The logo love is more blessing than eyesore, considering that the venue otherwise resembles a friggin’ penitentiary. Did anyone else get a look at the side court? The dreary, windowless space is bounded on one side by a 200-foot-high unpainted concrete block wall. The tat-covered Koubek looked like he was playing in Sing Sing. For Christ’s sake, slap a logo on it, amigos!
3. Was Chela sitting in the stands during Stepanek-Murray to scout his next match or his next dinner date? Seriously, these ball models are distracting (especially to the commentators)! They run sooooo slowly and wear funny elf caps. I feel sorry for them, always tugging at their dresses. Believe me girls, I feel your pain. The big question I hope to answer by the end of the tournament is: do the ball models make the players behave differently on the court? Will Andy Murray whine less? Kolya strut more? Will Rafa try not to pick his wedgies? Conversely, will the ball models jockey for position over Marat’s sweaty Schweppes towel and trade hair care tips with Roger during changeovers? I will keep my eye on how this develops during the week.
4. When will Pete Sampras finally agree to do a Bosley commercial so that we can stop listening to these creepy dudes brag about swimming with their new hair? And has Andy Murray signed with ProActive? He’s practically fresh faced! His game’s looking good, too.
5. Speaking of fresh faces, I was glad to see Ancic back on the court – yes, even in traffic cone-colored shorts.
6. Juan Monaco – still in the fine form he showed at the US Open. I’m picking him as a surprise quarter finalist.
7. Can the audio guys at the Recinto Ferial de la Casa de Campo get on the ball? It sounds like the warm up music is being played on a broken Victrola.
8. The commentators basically called Marcos Baghdatis a fat, lazy failure. Rude, but true?
9. After a Grand Slam, it’s kind of refreshing to get back to the best of three format. Do we ever really need to sit through five sets of del Potro – Starace?
10. So who’s it going to be in the final – Roger-Rafa or Roger-Djoky?