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Madrid Masters

Madrid Masters/

The Madrid Masters takes place in the Spanish capital in the first week of May. One of the biggest clay court tournaments of the year, it features the best players on the ATP Tour attempting to hit peak form before the French Open.


Background

The tournament is unusual in that it has changed countries, cities and court surfaces during its relatively short history. Although always classed as a Masters series event, it was held in Sweden from 1990 - 1994, before moving to Essen and then Stuttgart in Germany. The relocation to Madrid took place in 2002, but the tournament remained an indoor hard court competition, and was played towards the end of the ATP season.

In 2009, a radical transformation saw the Madrid Masters switch to clay courts and a new venue, the Caja Májica. In addition, it was moved to a new, pre-French Open slot in the calendar and became a combined men’s and women’s event. 

In 2012, the tournament attracted significant attention - and criticism - when the organisers decided to swap the traditional red playing surface for a new type of blue clay. The intention was to maintain the characteristics of a typical clay court while providing a better spectacle for fans in the stands and those watching on television, but many players expressed their disapproval - most notably Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal - and it was announced that red clay would make a return in 2013.


Past Champions

Boris Becker dominated the tournament in the early 1990s, winning three titles in Sweden and one in Stuttgart. Other notable champions in the pre-Madrid era include former Wimbledon champions Goran Ivanisevic and Michael Stich.

Since moving to Spain, the event has been won three times by Roger Federer, once on hard courts and twice on clay. The only other man to triumph on both surfaces in Rafael Nadal, who lifted the trophy in 2005 and 2010.


Classic Matches

Becker def. Sampras, 1996 final:
In the days when the event was staged on indoor hard courts in Stuttgart, two of the greatest fast court players of their era faced off in the 1996 final. Boris Becker was recovering from a serious wrist injury when he took on world number one Pete Sampras in front of a boisterous home crowd. The German recovered from the loss of the first and third sets to set up a tense decider that brought out the best in both men, with exquisite volleys, tense baseline exchanges and clutch serving the order of the day. Becker established an early break in the fifth set and held on for a famous victory that delighted the local fans and confirmed that the 29-year-old veteran was still a major force in the game.

Video: Becker v Sampras, 1996

Nadal def. Djokovic, 2009 semi-final:
Novak Djokovic had never beaten Nadal on clay, and had lost to him in the finals of both the Monte Carlo and Rome Masters in 2009. Their last four clash in Madrid that year was an absolute classic, a brutal war of attrition that pushed both men to the limit. Nadal looked uncharacteristically sluggish early on, and dropped the opening set. The second was much closer and went to a tie-break, in which Djokovic was a mere two points from a landmark victory. But the King of Clay snatched it and forced a memorable - and gruelling - deciding set. With rallies rarely lasting less than ten shots and some games going on for 15 minutes, both men lunged and leaped for every ball. Cheered on by his home crowd amid scenes of incredible tension, an exhausted Nadal saved three match points in the final set tie-break and eventually took it 11-9. Unsurprisingly, he had little left in the tank during the next day’s final against Roger Federer, but his epic four hour clash with Djokovic proved beyond doubt that he is one of the best fighters in the history of the sport.

Video: Nadal v Djokovic, 2009


Trivia

  • Since 2007, the Madrid Masters final has been a best-of-three sets match.
  • The Cajá Majica cost €294 million to construct.
  • Ion Tiriac, a former professional tennis player from Romania, is the current owner of the event. 
  • Although champion in 2008, the last year the Madrid Masters was played on hard courts, Andy Murray has never been beyond the quarter-finals since the tournament switched to clay.
  • The Bryan brothers have won the doubles title four times, twice on hard courts, and twice on clay.

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