The Madrid Open switched to clay at Caja Magica in 2009, and Rafael Nadal stood as a player to beat in the opening three editions. Rafa lost two finals to Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer and claimed the title in 2010, hoping for a similar outcome in 2012. Instead of regular clay, Ion Tiriac installed the blue one, a surface never seen again in tennis! The crowd’s favorite Nadal played his first match on the blue clay against Nikolay Davydenko in the second round. He beat the Russian 6-2, 6-2 in 80 minutes, controlling the pace on serve and return to oust a tricky rival and make a winning start. Between 2009-2011, Davydenko defeated Nadal four times in a row before Rafa ended his downfall at Caja Magica, beating the Russian for the fifth time in their last official match. Rafa served at 70% and dropped ten points in eight service games, facing no break points and sending the pressure to the other side. Davydenko could not match those numbers, losing 55% of the points behind the initial shot and suffering two breaks in each set to propel Rafa into the last 16. The Spaniard hit 19 winners and 12 unforced errors for a promising start on a surface he did not like.
Rafael Nadal made a strong start on blue clay in Madrid 2012.
The Russian hit a double fault in the opener’s game three to experience a break, and Nadal held at love for a 3-1 lead. In the fifth game, Rafa placed a backhand crosscourt winner to secure another break and extend the advantage, feeling much better on the court than the rival. A forehand winner sent Rafa 5-1 in front, and he wasted two set points on the return in the next one. Serving for the set at 5-2, Nadal landed an ace down the T line for a hold at 15 and the opener in his bag. At the beginning of the second set, the Spaniard grabbed another break and moved 2-0 up after a hold at 15. From 30-0 down in game four, Rafa claimed four straight points and closed the game with a service winner for a 3-1 advantage. Nikolay fended off break chances in the next game to at least stay in touch before Rafa held at love with an ace to go 4-2 up. Marching towards the finish line, Nadal broke at love in game seven and sealed the deal with a forehand winner a few minutes later.