Tiriac eyes brighter balls next
Originally published on: 10/05/12 00:00
Ion Tiriac is not a man to keep his ideas to himself. A former French Open doubles champion, the Romanian billionaire may not have delighted the players with his blue clay brainchild in Madrid, but he certainly got us all talking.
And now, as opposition from the likes of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic turns from disgruntled to sarcastic – the world No.1 joked that he considered asking Chuck Norris for help after his first match – the Transylvania-born 73-year-old has turned his attentions to brightening up another aspect of the game.
“We are going to improve the ball,” Tiriac said. “We’re thinking fluorescent green or fluorescent orange, which hold light better and work better in contrast to blue clay. "I have been thinking about this for a while. I think the colour of tennis balls can be improved."
That’s news to the ATP, who have reportedly heard nothing of Tiriac’s latest plans. First on the agenda though is to ensure his latest innovation is up to scratch.
“It looks like the court is too slippery and we have to fix that,” he said. “But today, five days into the tournament, I am more convinced than ever that blue clay is a great step forward.”
Now the richest man in Romania, Tiriac favoured clay during his playing days. He reached the quarter-finals of the French Open in 1968 and won the doubles event with Illie Nastase two years later. He went on to serve as coach and manager for Nastase, as well as the likes of Guillermo Vilas, Goran Ivanisevic and Marat Safin, also managing Boris Becker for nine years from 1984 to 1993. As well as the Mutua Madrid Open, he also holds the license for the ATP 250 event in Bucharest, named after he and Nastase and won by Frenchman Gilles Simon two weeks ago.