Like a yacht, a house or a sports car, a tennis tournament is a great opportunity for a rich billionaire to show off his charisma and wealth to the world. Megalomaniac billionaire, former Romanian tennis player Ion...

Like a yacht, a house or a sports car, a tennis tournament is a great opportunity for a rich billionaire to show off his charisma and wealth to the world. Megalomaniac billionaire, former Romanian tennis player Ion Tiriac runs in Madrid the most eccentric tournament of the year. The proof in 5 steps.

1-  The blue clay courts

"I respect their opinion, but I don’t have to agree to anything that a player says" Ion Tiriac, head of the Masters 1000 of Madrid, is not the kind of man to lie down for anyone. So when the four biggest names in men’s tennis started moaning together about the blue clay courts dear to the former Romanian tennis pro, now a successful businessman, a clash wasn’t far away. Exasperated, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray complained about playing on a surface they just don’t like. While some wring their hands about the exaggerated bounces and the slower pace of the game, others think it simply scorns the historical side of the classic ochre clay court season. Many things which, added to the numerous conflicts between the ATP and the players, don’t help to relax a slightly deleterious atmosphere on the eve of a major, even decisive, tournament. Ion Tiriac doesn’t care, what’s important is safe: "this tournament is going to become a special one"  

 2-  Hot ball girls

Sometimes one is happy to be retired. This is definitely the case of the legendary Croatian Goran Ivanisevic. Comfortably installed in front of his TV to follow the endless games between Nadal and Djokovic, the former Wimbledon champion enjoys the show on the courts of Madrid. Between two serves, Ivanisevic and many others question the delicious ball girls of the tournament. The reason is fairly simple: these models of the Elite agency are paid 900 euros per day by Ion Tiriac, who’s determined to make history even if it means creating controversy. A controversy soon to blow up because some players (and also many female politicians) regret what they describe as "reducing women to mere objects." Always very perceptive, Goran Ivanisevic sees things differently. Like his serve actually, all in great delicacy: "To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have been asking them for more balls, much more likely  their phone number".  

3-  The cream of supporters

What a lucky guy, this Rafael Nadal. An unconditional supporter of Real Madrid, the Spaniard has the honour to play every year in front of his favourite players. Indeed, the Madrid tournament is an opportunity for the Merengues to indulge in a day out with their friends or WAGs. With the legendary Raul off for a stint in the Bundesliga, the glamorous Cristiano Ronaldo and Iker Casillas have taken his place, often accompanied by the beautiful Irina Shayk and Sara Carbonero, . We told you, it’s the place to be.  

4-  A public out of control

"Please. Thank you." Complete robots, the chair umpires have the daunting task of calming down the sometimes-raging public. Usually respectful, the public sometimes let loose. That’s the case of the Spanish aficionados, especially those from Madrid, who are not shy of shouting out during points or haranguing the players during their service games. It’s enough to make one of the most prestigious tournaments of the year a tricky event to negotiate for the players. Except maybe for the Spanish ones...  

5-  Variable geometry settings

November or May? Hard courts or clay courts? Masters Series or Masters 1000? For those who only follow tennis from a distance, it’s a bit hard to understand. Since its establishment in October 2002, the Madrid tournament has changed dramatically. First the date, initially taking place in October, it was moved to May. Then the surface as the event went from being a paradise for hard-court masters, like Agassi or Safin, to one for clay-court specialists. Rafael Nadal won’t complain.   By Swann Borsellino