*By Enrique Yunta
Our wont to categorise has led us to consider the Mutua Madrid Open as the closest thing to a fifth Grand Slam, not far from the temples that mark the pinnacles of the season. There is the heat in the electric blue of Melbourne, the luminous clay of Paris and the charm of the Chatrier, the reverential green of that cathedral known as Wimbledon, the majestic sense of spectacle in New York and then there is Madrid, with all the charm that comes with a fantastic facility such as the Caja Mágica. And the epithet is justified as the tournament in the Spanish capital, with such a prominent position on the calendar, has countless parallel activities to enjoy beyond the great tennis, of which there is plenty. Madrid can boast a blue riband event that has been at the forefront for 15 years.
It is hard to believe looking back. Year after year, the Mutua Madrid Open has continued to better itself until becoming what it is today, a leader in the world of tennis. The tournament is under the constant care of Manolo Santana, the tournament director and our pioneer long before the current batch of Spanish stars began to thrive. It all started with him.
For me this tournament is the most important week on the tennis calendar because of ABC’s commitment to all the spectators that pack out the Caja Mágica. During the days of the competition a young group of journalists knuckles down to make sure that all the information from the day’s play is recorded in the daily magazine that is handed out around the premises. Marathon days where ABC’s best ply their trade at this special and exclusive event. Because the Mutua Madrid Open is nothing like other tournaments. It is unique.
The press love working here, and I mean that sincerely. The days are never ending, it is true, but they come with endless congratulations from the organisers, from the ATP and the WTA, with whom they gel very well, despite the obvious tensions that come with a competition of this stature. And, after all this time, the daily magazine has everything a product of its type should. With its ideal format, the best material and photos are guaranteed.
And there is so much more. There is Setball Radio, a great concept that puts the Mutua Madrid Open on a par with the best tournaments in the world with its daily broadcast of all the latest from the courts. Also the official website, updated in an instant and becoming increasingly dynamic. And the frenetic social networks, which give everyone a say about the event during those magical days. Always leading the way so that Madrid can boast a first-class tournament. It has been fifteen years now, let’s hope for many more.
*Enrique Yunta is ABC’s tennis specialist. He has covered various tournaments on the professional tour, including Grand Slam events, Davis Cup finals and Olympic Games.