We spent almost 4 weeks in the Spring of 2016 traveling through Portugal and Spain. How did we decide on those countries? It was all based on attending the Matua Madrid Open. And with a bit of planning, we even fit in the Barcelona Open a couple of weeks before.
Although we didn’t have any blue clay to look forward to, we knew Madrid would be a completely different experience to other tournaments we’d attended. We had expected just a different, Spanish vibe. We got that… but it was also different than we expected.
The grounds are easy to get to by metro and a short walk. Just follow the crowds from San Fermin – Orcasur station.
As you get close, you might be looking around to see the tennis courts and the big stadium. All that you can see is a big conference center. Well, that’s it. Welcome to the Matua Madrid Open and the Caja Magica in all its glory!
If you get there before the gates open, you will see a seriously HUGE line. Ignore it. The line is for suckers. As soon as the gates open, no one will respect the queue anyway, so why should you? It’s the Spanish way. Stand around until the crowd starts to move, then just move with it.
When we say “conference center” it’s only partly tongue in cheek. Once you get through security, that’s exactly what it feels like. Rather than outdoor walkways between courts, you are indoors under the seats of center court (Pista Central Manolo Santana). Exploring around the main level, you can find the entrances to what look like break-out rooms, but are actually Arantxa Sanchez Vicarco (Stadium 2) and Stadium 3.
Down the stairs is the food court and retail area. This also gives you access to the outside courts where some lower-level matches and practices take place. To watch the action on those courts, there is an elevated walkway along the length of the courts with access to some open seating.
The conference center vibe doesn’t leave once you find your seat on a show court. Madrid has retractable roofs on its top 3 courts, but the metal siding and strange shadows create a very different atmosphere. And we’re not sure that’s a good thing.
Our original plan was to spend 5 days in Madrid, but only go to one day of the tournament (Thursday, the 5th). But since we’re not really big city people, we bought last minute tickets for the Tuesday through the tournament website (only €33 each for front row in the upper bowl).
Our first day, we were able to watch Suarez Navarro beat Lisicki and Monfils beat Anderson. When we went back Thursday for the 3rd round Men’s/Qtr Finals Women’s, we were able to see Cibulkova beat Cirstea, Halep win over Begu, and Murray win over Simon.
This may be a bit strange, but we had our best time not on Center Court, but on Stadium 3. The court is smaller (although still has the strange indoor feel), but is all open seating. We were able to watch Monfils-Anderson in front seats during their first round match, and later in the week Cibulkova-Cirstea, also from the front row right on the baseline. It was great tennis, and the court is small enough that you feel extremely close to the action We found that due to the smaller size of the court, as fans got into the action, the atmosphere improved to a fun level we had never felt on center court.
One downside we found was Arantxa Sanchez Vicario court, the 2nd show court. Apparently it is no longer open seating (we heard it used to be), but for the life of us we couldn’t figure out how to get tickets. They didn’t seem to be available on the website (although we notice they are for 2017) or anywhere once you were inside the grounds. There was no way we were going to leave in the hopes that we could buy more tickets at the box office. So we missed seeing our hometown star Raonic’s win over Belluci, and had to settle for just watching him practice on an outside court prior to his match.
The Mutua Madrid Open is a good tournament, from the perspective that it’s combined ATP/WTA, attracts all the top players, and is in a great city. But we just couldn’t get over the conference center feel that seemed to prevent any real atmosphere from developing on the main show court. If we were to go again, we’d just buy grounds passes and camp out on Stadium 3 during the middle few days of the tournament.
We think we’ve covered it. Don’t get us wrong – everything is fairly modern, there are plenty of things like washrooms, the foodcourt is a decent size, and viewing on the practice and outside courts is good. And at least you don’t have to worry about your day of tennis being rained out on the show courts. But we really missed the feeling of a lively outdoor tennis tournament.
Food was decent. Gourmet pizzas were good, there were fresh fruit smoothies, and sandwiches with beer/wine available. Nothing special, but we’ve had worse.