By Nacho Calvo*
The Mutua Madrid Open is the event in Spanish tennis. The best players on the ATP and WTA tours flock to our country’s best tennis facility. Nobody wants to miss out on this amazing competition, they all want to participate in one way or another: playing and competing on the court, umpiring, picking up balls, working with the organisers, working as volunteers, enjoying the tennis and cheering on the players from the stands, telling the world about it from the press room or, in my case, commentating on the best matches from TVE’s booth on the Manolo Santana centre court.
This year’s tournament will be a special one for my colleagues at TVE and me, particularly because it will be a return to the true excitement of experiencing it from the inside like before; of feeling the satisfaction and responsibility while again forming part of a tournament that I commentated on for TVE viewers from its beginnings until the broadcasting rights went to another channel in 2011. Although I have been able to commentate on the women’s tournament the past two years with my colleague José Luis Villuendas for Teledeporte, now everything is starting again and I am keener than ever to help, along with my workmates, make TVE the vehicle for transmitting the magic of the Mutua Madrid Open.
Just as the players enjoy and are motivated by playing in the big tournaments and on big stages, it is also special for commentators to work on matches between players who generate the greatest expectations in a stadium that is packed to rafters. Also, in a lot of Mutua Madrid Open matches, both in the Caja Mágica and at its first venue, the Madrid Arena, from the commentator’s booth I have been able to soak up the grit and emotions of the players on the court and the passion and enthusiasm from the stands, which prompt a commentator to rise to the challenge posed by the great spectacle and make sure their words reach the fans who are watching on television with that same passion.
In this regard, my mind goes back to the 2009 semi-final, the first time the tournament was held at the Caja Mágica, between Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic. It was “pandemonium” in the Manolo Santana Stadium: the cries from Rafa and the Serb as they hit the ball during their ferocious exchanges, coupled with the roar of more than 15,000 spectators created an unbeatable atmosphere. Whenever the Mallorcan saved a match point, the volume of my voice in the cabin also shot up by a decibel or two. The great Emilio Sánchez Vicario, who was then a tennis commentator on TVE, teased me live on air: “Nacho you shout more than the spectators”. After four hours and three minutes, record length for a three-set match, Rafa Nadal closed out the big match. The centre court in the Caja Mágica had provided a majestic stage for a magical show that I was lucky enough to be able to share with millions of TVE viewers. These matches are the ones commentators want to work on.
The sweat and tears that the players leave on the court in those clashes fill every nook and cranny of the stadium. That spirit also reaches the broadcasting booth and you realise that you are not just working on another tennis match, but on that match that everyone will be talking about and remember forever. Who can forget the 2005 final between Rafa Nadal and Ivan Ljubicic? Rafa says that it is one of the best memories of his career: “Thanks to the support from the public I managed to turn the score around and end up winning a final that I was losing 2-0”. The thousands of fans in the Madrid Arena and the 2,871,000 viewers (25% share) watching on TVE will surely never forget it either. Personally, as a commentator on that epic match, what I experienced there will stay with me forever.
In addition, this year’s Mutua Madrid Open will be special because of another reunion: with Álex Corretja in the TVE commentator’s booth. From 2005, when Alex did his first television broadcast at the Master Nacional de Valladolid, to 2009, when he quit to become Andy Murray’s coach, we formed a well-matched duo. In that time we shared some great moments in Spanish tennis. It is going to be a privilege commentating on the Mutua Madrid Open again with Alex (as we did when the tournament was played in the Madrid Arena) and I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome José Luis Villuendas as a TVE commentator on the Mutua. “Villu”, as he is known in the tennis world, has commentated on the women’s tournament from Torrespaña for the last two years, but this year will also be special and unforgettable for him because he will be experiencing it from the inside. The viewers will certainly enjoy his refreshing comments.
*Nacho Calvo is a reporter for TVE and Teledeporte. He has covered various tournaments on the professional tour, as well as the Davis Cup and the Olympic Games and has been the voice of tennis for many years.