Madrid tournament owner Ion Tiriac (far right) has made headlines with a controversial new clay color. (EPA)
As the Madrid Open continues to fight the public-relations battle over its controversial use of blue clay, tournament owner Ion Tiriac can count Venus Williams as an ally.
"I think the blue clay is a real fashion statement," Williams said during a pre-tournament appearance in Madrid, where she will begin her clay season next week. "I think it's really in, bright colors are in. I wish I thought of it myself. I think it's a good idea."
That sentiment puts Venus at odds with her sister Serena. When I asked Serena last month about the blue clay, she rolled her eyes and described the move as "ridiculous." Serena continued her criticism this week, telling Tennis Panorama News, "No one likes it. I'm on the council, we all voted against it. It's interesting to see that they just did what they wanted. I just wish they hadn't asked us and wasted our time."
Serena is not the only top player who feels her voice wasn't heard. Last month, Novak Djokovic said the top ATP players never agreed to the change.
[Beyond The Baseline: Players react to blue clay]
"I'm not really too happy about it," Djokovic told reporters in Monte Carlo. "All the credit to the tournament. I'm not blaming them. They fight for their own. But definitely there is a certain rule within the ATP that the president is able to make decisions by himself without having players agree. That rule has to be changed because it's not fair.
"I understand that we all want to see a certain change and improvement in our tennis world. But, on the other hand, you need to hear what the players say, especially the top ones, because we need to feel that our opinion matters. That was not the case this time."
Madrid's PR fiasco is the consequence of ignoring the players' concerns. Of course, this could all be part of Tiriac's grand scheme anyway. Any publicity is good publicity, right?