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The next important event on the tennis calendar is the Madrid Open.
Ion Tiriac, nicknamed the Brasov Bulldozer, is the owner of the Mutua Madrid Open. Tiriac, an interesting personality, has played ice hockey for Romania. He has also represented Romania in the Davis Cup, appearing in three finals.
Along with Ilie Nastase, he formed a formidable doubles team and captured a Grand Slam doubles title and a runners-up finish as well. After retirement as a player, he became coach/manager of various players including Guillermo Vilas, Marat Safin and even Boris Becker.
The Madrid Open is currently played on red clay. Interestingly, in 2012, due to the insistence of Tiriac, it was played on blue-coloured clay, as Tiriac felt it would be visually pleasing, especially for TV viewers.
However, after players expressed concern about slipping and falling down, the organisers went back to red clay in 2013.
The tournament has been played for just 14 years and there have been as many as eight winners, with Andre Agassi winning the inaugural edition in 2002.
Let’s have a look at the various winners over the years and some fun facts which emerge.
No surprise here, it is Rafa Nadal. However, instead of the nine clay court championship titles at a single venue to which we have got used to, as in Roland Garros or Monte Carlo, here Rafa has won on four occasions and reached the final three more times as well.
He lost once each to Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, while his wins came against Ivan Ljubicic, Federer, Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori.
How other champions have fared here
Roger Federer has the next-best record here after Rafa. He has won three finals, including one against Nadal. His other two wins were against Fernando Gonzales and Tomas Berdych. He has also lost twice in a final, once each to Rafa and to David Nalbandian
Novak Djokovic has just one final entry to his name, in 2011 when he defeated Rafa to be crowned champion. Surprisingly, Andy Murray has two wins here, once against Rafa and once against Giles Simon back in 2008. Murray is the current defending champion. Wawrinka has only a solitary runners-up position here, after losing to Rafa in 2013.
The facts above suggest that this is a much more open tournament than most. There have been eight champions in the 14 editions and only three multiple winners. Rafa has won four, Federer three and Murray two. However, there are as many as five single-time champions here who are Djokovic, Agassi, Juan Carlos Ferrero, David Nalbandian and Marat Safin.
Similarly, if the runners-up position is analysed, only Rafa has lost thrice and Federer twice. There are nine one-time finalists. This also indicates a close and open tournament.
There is, however, a serious flaw in the above analysis. What has not been taken into account is that this has been a clay court tournament from 2009, while from 2002-2008 it was played on hard court indoors. No surprise then, that from 2009 onwards Nadal has figured in six out of the seven finals here.
A layman’s interpretation of the above stats would suggest Rafa and Federer are the most likely players to win here, but then Djokovic is the world Number 1 and, despite an early loss in Monte Carlo, is in excellent form. He remains the man to beat.
Defending champion Murray has won twice here and also displayed good form in Monte Carlo. He has a chance to win too, as is Wawrinka who, on his day, can beat just about anyone.
It seems that the tournament will be won by one of these five. Since 2008, no one outside the ‘Big Four’ has won it.
So will one of the ‘Big Four’ win again, or will it be Wawrinka who will come up with his first Madrid title. What is your guess Roarers?