Once upon a time, the focus at the Mutua Madrid Open was on the bright blue clay. This year, thanks to Stan Wawrinka and Joao Sousa, it’s on the bright blue lights. With advertisement boards glowing during the match and flashing on changeovers, it’s not difficult to see why it might be distracting to a player. Like the ginormous flashing screen in Stuttgart, the emphasis with these modern additions is usually on making things exciting for the spectator. And selling ad space, of course.
We here at Tennis Inside Out love it when there’s an entertaining wrangle with the umpire, and Stan loves wrangling. If you know Stan at all, you’re familiar with his insistence on Justice during a match. He hates distractions, rule-breakers, and outside influence. Stan wants his tennis pure.
He also wants to avoid retina burn. Is that so wrong? We’ll let you decide, as we relive all the crazy details of this player revolt.
We’ll start with Fergus Murphy, presiding stoically as usual over the match.
Our first indication of a problem is at 3*-2, 15-30, Sousa. We hear Stan indistinctly saying something, and then Fergus replying near the mic: “I don’t know the answer, but I’ll ask.”
Stan struts back to the baseline and play resumes.
The Swiss man is not having the best day. He’s down a break, he seems to have a bit of a nagging cough, and he’s hitting errors that make the guys in his box (Lawrence Frankopan and Yannick Fattebert) look like this:
It’s not pretty. On the changeover, still down 3-4, Stan stares up at Fergus questioningly. Fergus nods and radios in the request.
“Okay,” Fergus begins, in a tone that indicates he knows this will be considered a completely ridiculous idea, “so Stan would like to switch off ALL the lights at the back of both sides of the court, so I told him I’d ask.” It was ALL STAN, not me, nope, I’m just the innocent umpire in all this.
“All the advertising on the court,” Fergus clarifies to the voice on the other end of the line. When he phrases it like that, we know this isn’t going to go well for Stan.
Shortly thereafter, Fergus calls down to his annoyed player. The following exchange is nearly overpowered by very loud disco music.
“Stan, they can’t switch it off.”
“Just because of all the advertising for the tournament.”
Stan is much harder to hear because he’s not in front of the mic, and his voice warbles a bit in the middle, but it sounds like he says, “But not during the fucking play.” The F-bomb is very clear, though, flattening the typically rounded vowels of his Swiss-French accent.
“Stan,” Fergus says in an admonishing tone. “Just talk to me normally, you don’t need to swear.”
“Okay, sorry,” Stan replies, “but not during the play.”
“I told them what you said, they said it’s not possible. It’s–”
“Why it’s not?”
“I guess it’s just part of the whole tournament, the whole business.”
“What?” Stan asks in an incredulous tone. Fergus thinks he hasn’t heard, so he starts to repeat his answer, but Stan plows ahead. “It’s okay to annoy the player with light during the play?”
“I suppose you have to get used to it.”
“You have to get used to it.”
Yes, Stan, we do. It’s all about the money, honey. Rafa will tell you.
Fergus turns and takes a deep breath, hoping this is the end of the subject. Oh how wrong you are, Fergus. How wrong you are.