True blue: Nadal wins opener on Madrid clay

Mallorcan cruises to 6-2, 6-2 victory over Nikolay Davydenko

Nadal returns the ball on the new blue clay at the Madrid Open on Wednesday.
Nadal returns the ball on the new blue clay at the Madrid Open on Wednesday.ANDRES KUDACKI (AP)

After all the fuss about the garish blue clay courts prepared for this year’s Madrid Open, Rafael Nadal opened his campaign at the event with a largely serene 6-2, 6-2 victory over Nikolay Davydenko Wednesday, breaking his opponent four times to wrap up victory in 80 minutes. The world number two appeared to have little problem adapting to the controversial surface as he pummeled the Russian into submission, although he had a few complaints to make afterward.

Davydenko, currently ranked 54 but a regular presence in and around the top 10 during his 13-year career displayed flashes of the talent that has taken him to 21 ATP titles and a Masters Cup but injuries and the inexorable march of time have claimed a yard or two from his mobility.

Always a player in the Lleyton Hewitt mold — you hit it, I’ll get it back somehow — Davydenko looked to be up for the fight in the second game as he carved out a 15-30 lead but Nadal fired down two aces to save the situation and then broke immediately for 2-1. In truth, the contest ended there. Davydenko, one of few players with a winning career record against the Spaniard, threw up occasional pockets of brilliant resistance but could only delay the inevitable as Nadal wasted little time in moving into round three and a match against Fernando Verdasco, who rallied to defeat Colombian qualifier Alejandro Falla 6-7, 6-4, 6-4.

He might have been off court even quicker were it not for the tardiness of the crowd in taking their seats after changeovers, for which Nadal reserved more scowls of displeasure than the errant surface.

Nadal, who was at pains to point out that the blue clay decision was permitted by the ATP, which will review the issue after the event, nevertheless did not hold back when interviewed after the match. “The surface doesn’t feel comfortable; it’s complicated, very slippery. It’s difficult to keep your balance. But you have to adapt; it’s not going to be red tomorrow. I hope that next year they change it.”

However, the 2005 and 2010 champion was keen to draw a line under the matter for the time being. “We’ve talked enough about the surface. Djokovic spoke yesterday and I have said what needs to be said. When it comes to competition, if I lose here it will be because I was not good enough to win, not because the court is not in good condition. But we are in the clay-court season and this is far from being a clay court.”

Defending champion Djokovic also had scathing words for the change after he dropped a set in defeating Daniel Gimeno-Traver on Tuesday night. “Not a single player — not a woman, not a man — I didn’t hear anyone say ‘I like blue clay’.” said the Serbian. Certainly on the outer courts the bounce seemed to confound the players, with a handful of air shots on show and more than an occasional glower in the direction of the much-maligned blue stuff.

Spain’s number two, David Ferrer, had little trouble in his opening match, defeating Radek Stepanek 7-6, 6-2 without dropping serve. The fifth seed will go on to face either Nicolás Almagro or Marcel Granollers in round three.

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