New blue-clay courts pose no concerns for ex-champ Federer

By Scott Williams ,AFP

MADRID — Blue-clay courts at the Madrid Masters hold no fear for former champion Roger Federer, with the confident Swiss insisting on Sunday that he will be ready for any conditions when he begins play in the second round. Federer, the third seed and 2009 champion who beat Rafael Nadal to lift that title, has had two days of training on the experimental — and controversial — blue courts laid down at the Caja Magica.

But game day and practice sessions are two completely different situations, with the calm Swiss not stressing about what he might find in the heat of battle on the unorthodox surface. “I’ve played on it for two days, but not on Centre Court,” said Federer, back on the ATP after more than five weeks of holiday rest and training. “It feels a bit different than regular clay, maybe it’s the visual aspect. “It’s been cool and rainy so far here, it will be interesting to see how it is in hot and nice weather. “There is still some waiting to do and matches are quite a bit different than practices. I have to wait for my match to come around to give a proper opinion.” Federer will play against the winner from a high-voltage opening round tie between Argentine hard-man David Nalbandian and Canadian serving sensation Milos Raonic. The Swiss said that the jury is still out on the blue-clay plan put into action by the tournament’s billionaire impresario Ion Tiriac, the man who brought runway models onto court as ball girls in another experiment which has paid public relations dividends for the ATP-WTA Masters 1000. Nadal, by contrast, has been complaining for weeks about the initiative, blaming the ATP for allowing its former CEO Adam Helfant to quietly approval the plan without consulting the board.

The Spaniard has been playing the tennis tradition card — usually the one dealt to Federer on most issues — by lamenting the change in color.