Madrid Flashback: Roger Federer edges Tomas Berdych and wins blue clay title

Roger Federer became the first and only champion on blue clay in Madrid 2012

by Jovica Ilic
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Madrid Flashback: Roger Federer edges Tomas Berdych and wins blue clay title

The 2012 Madrid Masters went on a unique blue clay, with Roger Federer becoming the first and only champion on the controversial surface! Seeking a better contrast of the yellow ball for the TV viewers in comparison to the traditional red-orange clay and identity and uniqueness, they stole the show in the first part of the season.

Still, the entire story had one teeny-tiny problem, as the players hated the new surface from the first contact with it! The names like Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal said they would not be there in 2013 if the surface did not return to regular clay!

Despite the exact earthen origins as standard clay, the iron oxide had been removed from the earth to change color from red to white. The blue pigment was added to get that unique color when the white bricks were crumbled into a powder.

Color aside, the biggest problem was that it was so slippery that the players could barely move from one side to another. Getting back into a neutral position in the middle of the court and chasing balls on the hard and powdery surface was almost impossible.

A month later, an ATP executive chairman and president, Brad Drewett, announced that blue clay would not stay on the calendar, urging the organizers to return the traditional red clay for the following year's edition. That closed this gripping saga, but our focus is on the only player who lifted the trophy on blue clay.

Roger Federer came from a set down to overcome Tomas Berdych 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 in the final after two hours and 38 minutes. The outcome could have been much different, as Roger barely escaped defeat against Milos Raonic in the second round.

The Swiss played better after that to set the title clash. He beat Tomas for the 11th time in 15 encounters after firing 13 aces and saving six out of nine break points. Federer overpowered his opponent in tight closures of sets two and three to write history and become the champion on this unique surface, never to be seen on the Tour again.

Tomas won just two points fewer than Roger and repelled seven out of 11 break opportunities. The Czech fought for every point but collapsed after dropping serve in the 12th game of sets two and three to end on the losing side.

A backhand return winner gave Tomas a break of serve in the encounter's game two before holding at love in the next one to open a handy 3-0 lead. The Czech was in a great rhythm, firing four winners to bring the fifth game home and producing something similar two games later to forge a 5-2 gap after only 25 minutes.

Roger was yet to find his strokes. He played against two set points on serve in game eight, fending them off with powerful serves that got him out of trouble and kept in the set. Despite serving at 42%, Tomas sailed through his service games and closed the set with a service winner at 5-3 after 36 minutes, hurling 14 winners and just two unforced errors to outplay the great rival.

Roger finally found the range in the second set's second game.

Roger Federer claimed the title on unique blue clay in Madrid 2012.

He broke Tomas with a forehand winner to move ahead and wrapped up the next one in 68 seconds to cement the break and build confidence.

Berdych earned a break chance in game five that could have sent him closer to the finish line. Roger saved it with an ace and missed a break opportunity in the next one, as Tomas saved it with an ace and reduced the deficit to 4-2.

Serving for the set at 5-3, Federer got broken when Berdych punched a forehand down the line winner. Tomas returned to the positive side and maintained a chance to close the match in straight sets and win the title. The Czech held in game ten to level the score at 5-5 and send the pressure to the other side.

Roger remained focused and blasted four service winners to force Tomas to serve to stay in the set. A return winner gave Federer set points (the ball just slid when it hit the ground), and he converted the first after the rival's costly double fault to take the set 7-5 and enter the decider as the favorite.

Roger controlled the pace, and Tomas started making more errors, unable to stay on the level from the opening set, something we could expect from him. One of the crucial moments came in the decider's opening game when Federer repelled two break chances to avoid an early setback.

He was 30-0 down in game three as well, and Berdych fired a beautiful forehand crosscourt winner to gain a break chance. Roger stayed focused and landed three service winners to escape and send the pressure to the other side.

Tomas held in game four and had another small return opportunity in the next game. He lost four points in a row and blew another chance of putting Roger under stress. Federer created three break points at 4-3, and Berdych denied them with booming serves.

However, Tomas hit a double fault to lose serve and find himself 5-3 behind, allowing Roger to serve for the victory. However, Berdych was there to compete, making one more push to break back after a deep return and finally taking advantage of Federer's unreliable serves to extend the encounter.

They both held easily in the next two games, and Berdych served to propel the match into a deciding tie break at 5-6. Tomas faced three match points after Roger's solid returns, with the Swiss giving his best to seal the deal before a risky tie break.

Eventually, Federer seized the fourth match point when Berdych netted a forehand, lifting the trophy and writing history books as the first and only champion on blue clay!

Roger Federer Tomas Berdych
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