The president and CEO of the Mutua Madrid Open takes a look back at how the tournament has grown since its inauguration in 2002 to become one of the biggest events on the ATP and WTA calendars, with 96-player draws taking place over two weeks.
What are the expectations for the tournament this year?
Starting this year, we have bigger draws, for the men and the women. We go up to 96 players and we’re also increasing the length of the competition from 10 days to 14 in total. So it’s a significant expansion and it gives Madrid even more importance on the calendar, after the Grand Slams of course.
What other significant features does that entail?
The interesting thing about this format of competition is that the stars will start competing earlier. In the first week, on Friday-Saturday the big players will come into play, when they used to start on Tuesday or Wednesday the following week. So the fans will see the best players from early on. This gives the tournament more substance from the start.
Did you feel the public wanted more tennis?
Yes, every year the number of visitors has grown, which is a strong sign to us that they like coming to the event, they want to see today’s best players. So I think it’s important to offer the best product possible during the first days as well, when tickets are cheaper than at the end of the tournament, and people can enjoy the players they are fans of from the start.
Do you think, in practice, we have a Grand Slam tournament in Madrid?
In terms of the standard of competition, without a doubt, it is very high, because the best in the world have to play in a tournament like ours. They are obliged to play, so they are here and they also receive a lot of points and prizes. We’re also expanding the purses. In terms of organisation, we have a wide-ranging product for members and fans. We are not trying to be a Grand Slam, but we don’t want that to stop us from growing into a better event every year.
Do those fans focus only on the stars? The outdoor courts are also full.
The attraction of the stars is what it is: Djokovic, Rafa Nadal, Carlos Alcaraz… Good players always come here. To a tennis fan it is more important to see great tennis, seeing the best, whatever their nationality. We want to allow people to get close to the court. Seeing them grind and compete up close. That is a privilege.
Last year, a new trophy was introduced, do you have any more surprises up your sleeves?
I think we’re the only tournament associated with an artist. We’re bringing art and sport together. The same artist, David Rodríguez Caballero, has made a new trophy for us this year. The idea is to create a collection of trophies by this artist. The winner, apart from the prize, will have a work of art for their home. A unique goal.
IMG have arrived at the tournament, in what way is that noticeable?
It is noticeable because it’s a liberating company in the sports sector and it has global impetus with over 8,000 employees around the world, which opens a lot of doors for us.
We all remember Manolo Santana, what can you tell us about him as a person?
Well, he will always be present because we started the tournament and I was lucky enough to be here from the start with him. We had a great relationship and we managed to build this event together from scratch. I will always be grateful for his patience, his awareness and his collaboration. The Centre Court bears his name. His soul is always here.
You have renewed the agreement with Madrid until 2030. Does that mean you can work with more peace of mind?
Of course. Also the peace of mind that comes with the arrival of IMG. The intention is to stay in Madrid and continue here for many years. We want to build a stadium in 2025 with a capacity of around 8-10,000 people here in the Caja Mágica.