Ha! I got it today!
YaY. And don't worry about all the pics, seen 'em ALL already
Please read the whole thing clearly.
Long before Oscar Coria's wife, Graciela, gave birth to their first child, he had decided that his son would be named in honor of Argentina's greatest player, Guillermo Vilas. Bouncing into the world just days before Vilas reached the semifinal of the 1982 Masters in New York, the bar was set high from the start. Not surprisingly, a tennis racquet was one of the first "toys" given to little Guille. When he was 3, he slept with it in his arms, protecting it from those strange beings that inhabit children's dreams. Young Guillermo's first lessons were with his father at the 100-year-old Venado Tuerto Club, in the Province of Santa Fe, about 230 miles from Buenos Aires. He was playing tournaments by age 4. At 9 he was unbeaten in his age group at the national level. At 13 he moved to Miami, with the help of a grant from the Academy of Patricia Apey. (Apey was Gabriela Sabatini's former coach.) "It was difficult being away from my family," Coria says. "I had to cook, wash my clothes - this helped me to grow up. My parents gave up things so that we [he and younger brothers Roman and Federico] would never lack anything. When I was in Miami, they helped me financially." As early as 14 - when Coria and David Nalbandian were part of Argentina's world-champion junior team - Coria was already showing the characteristics that define his sublime game today: an ability to execute all the shots, a fierce fighting spirit, amazing foot speed, and the touch and talent that earned him the nickname "EI Mago" ("the Magician"). During his junior days, he dreamt of future glories. He has often said that winning Roland Garros, qualifying for the Tennis Masters Cup and playing Davis Cup are dreams he has had from the beginning. But Roland Garros has proved to be a nightmare, not a dream. In 2003 he suffered a shock semifinal loss to Dutchman Mark Verkerk, and this year he lost one of the most bizarre finals in history to countryman Gaston Gaudio. Coria won 11 of the first 12 games of the match and then, afflicted with cramps in his left leg,
he looked like he may have to retire early in the fourth set. He rallied bravely in the fifth set and earned two match points, but Gaudio scrambled and eventually won 8--6 in the fifth.
In the 2003 quarterfinals, Coria entered Philippe-Chatrier Stadium to play his idol, Andre Agassi. "I grew up admiring Andre,"
he says. "I was very happy when I won the junior tournament at Roland Garros, and he managed to win his first title and complete the series of four Grand Slam titles. As a boy, I only got up to watch him play. Vilas? I never saw him play live or on TV, but I am grateful for the way he helped me. Besides, because of him, tennis became popular in Argentina." With the requisite courage and lack of respect, a lethal return and a punishing down-the-line backhand, Coria went about constructing his most important career win. As Agassi's last drive went wide and the electronic scoreboard showed 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4, Vilas and Sabatini sat smiling in his box. Coria went to the net, only then displaying the shyness absent during the match. He didn't know whether to embrace Agassi or to shake his hand; in the end, the greeting looked more like an apology. Overwhelmed, he rested his head against the net, trying to grasp what was happening. "I enjoyed a match that I will never forget," he says. "It was a unique feeling, magical." Agassi emphasized Coria's fighting spirit: "Guillermo has a brave heart, a great mind,
a variety of shots and the foot speed to use them offensively and defensively. On this surface, he can beat anyone; he is one
of the best." Agassi later gave his conq!Jeror a racquet. "I asked somebody on his team for a T-shirt," recalls Coria, "but he sent me the racquet. I wanted to hold it for a long time." In the semifinals, Coria did not play at the same level and became another victim of big*serving Dutchman Verkerk, who went on a tear during the Roland Garros fortnight. Though disappointing, when the dust had settled Coria was able to reflect on an outstanding clay court season that returned his first ATP Masters Series title in Hamburg, the runner-up plate in Monte Carlo and his first Grand Slam semifinal in Paris. With each win, he repeated his ritual of kissing his pendant of River Plate (the soccer team he supports), kneeling on his left knee and pointing his index finger skyward, a pose he borrowed from Marcelo Salas, River Plate's Chilean goalkeeper.
After failing to impress at Wimbledon, Coria went on to win three consecutive clay court titles without dropping a set in Stuttgart, KitzbOhel and Sopot, becoming the first player to do so since Thomas Muster in 1996. He finished with an ATP-best 38-5 record on clay for the season and five titles. Despite his record, Coria conceded that "Juan Carlos Ferrero was the best on red clay in 2003. He won Roland Garros and Monte Carlo, two very important tournaments, and he beat me." Coria's triumph on indoor carpet in Basel was the only one of his five 2003 titles won on a surface other than clay. His personal-best 17-10 record on hard courts was solid but not spectacular. To become one of the greats of the modern game, Coria knows he must follow the lead of Ferrero, who last year became the first player since Ivan Lendl in 1980 to win 30 or more matches on both clay and hard courts. Already the signs are that Coria will make the transition. He reached the quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Financial Masters-and the US Open last summer, and in early 2004 he reached the Pacific Life Open quarterfinals and his first hard court ATP Masters Series final at the NASDAQ-100 Open Miami. (A back injury forced him to retire with Andy Roddick leading two sets to one.) But not even injury could keep down Coria, who won the ATP Masters Monte Carlo title at his next start and then reached a third consecutive ATP Masters Series final in Hamburg, whe he lost to Roger Federer in four sets. That closed Coria's 31-match clay court winnin( streak - the longest since Thomas Muste (38) in '95-'96 - which dated back to the 2003 Roland Garros semifinal. Last season, Coria won 60 matches to end the year at NO.5 in the INDESIT ATP Entry Ranking. His five titles were the most won by an Argentine since Vilas (7) and Jose-Luis Clerc (5) in 1982, his birth year. He was the first Argentine to finish in the Tc since Vilas finished NO.4 in '82. Along wilh Nalbandian, Coria was the first Argentine s Clerc in '83 to qualify for the season finale. At Tennis Masters Cup Houston, Coria beat Carlos Moya and lost to Roddick and Rainer Schuettler. "I want to return to Houston as NO.1 in the world. That is what I'm working for." What must he improve to reach the top of the mountain? "All my shots, absolutely," he acknowledges. "I can't give any advantages. Physical fitness too, although I'm not especially worried about it. Many think that this could be my problem, but
I demonstrated that I can play long matches and entire tournaments."
Can Coria be NO.1? In Vilas' opinion, "He has everything to get there, but we have to wait. He is a very talented and astute player. But his contemporaries are also incredible: Federer, Ferrero, Safin, Roddick, Hewitt."
while now experiencing the highs the tennis world offers, Coria vividly remembers the anguish caused by his suspension for failing a drug test in Barcelona in May 2001. He consumed a commercially available nutritional supplement that had been contaminated with metabolites of nandrolone the point of manufacture. As part of his penalty, he forfeited almost $1 00,000 and ranking points, which caused him to drop from No. 30 to outside the Top 100. "I took an over-the-counter vitamin supplement, which is sold here but manufactured in the United States. I won't mention the name, because I took them to court. It did not say anywhere on the label that it contained nandrolone. I felt terrible. I cried the whole time during the tribunal in Miami.
Today, times are happy. His workday routine includes matches, practicing, and almost daily contact with fans through his Web site, GCoria.com. He personally answers more than 100 e-mails daily and sometimes sends a collective message. "They come from all over the world," he says. "Finland, Russia, Pakistan. What really bothers me is that many people don't believe I am the one answering. I spend hours answering. After each match, I send
a commentary and pictures, too, if I have some. I thoroughly enjoy the contact with the fans, which is also a way of distracting myself. I have to pay attention to them and not take them for granted. Coria, who travels to Venado Tuerto or Rosario to see his friends when time permits, opened an Academy called G Coria In Venado. "It is for youngsters up to the age of 16," he claims. "We want to contribute to the development of tennis. There will be boys from Argentina and other parts of South America. I would love to spend more time there, but I can't." It is one of the few disadvantages of Coria's itinerant lifestyle, which also prevents him from seeing loved ones as much as he would like. Another disadvantage is traveling by plane: "When there is turbulence, I wonder what I'm doing up there. I hate planes."
If Coria had not become a tennis player, he would have played soccer. "I never thought about becoming a lawyer, an architect or something like that," he declares. It has already become a habit for him to excuse himself and to disappear in Houdini-like fashion from the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club during the Argentine ATP tournament. He leaves the club at top speed to go to the soccer field and watch River Plate. He has already befriended current players Salas and Marcelo Gallardo and former player Andres D'Alessandro. He wears a bracelet with the red and white team colors, and he almost always has a River Plate jersey in his bag. "In the 2003 tournament, I asked to leave
a press conference early to go to the field," remembers Coria. "Sheer madness: He flew there and hardly managed to see the last 15 minutes of the match," relates his father. In his room at home, he has a towel signed
by many River Plate footballers. When out of the country, he writes e-mails or listens to his favorite CDs by Charly Garcia or Los Piojos. And of course, he does not miss Internet radio broadcasts of River Plate's matches. But nothing compares to what he did on December 27, 2003, the most important day *of his life - the day he married Carla Francovigh. There, underneath his jacket, he wore a shirt with a red stripe, resembling the jersey of his team. "I had special-ordered it; it was a surprise for everyone," boasts Coria. 'We met in September 1998 during the Davis Cup against Slovakia. I went out to get something to eat and saw her. I was stunned. We talked for five minutes, nothing more. She was in a little tennis school in Rosario [also in the Province of Santa Fe] and the woman teacher was a friend of my father. We just saw each other the next year. And I had a tough time conquering her."
But a busy season on the court in 2004 continues and includes goals to win the Tennis Masters Cup and a medal for his country at the Olympics. "The Olympic Games are something that I have dreamed about since I was little. To stay in the Olympic Village, trying to win a medal for your country must be something incredible." His hunger knows no bounds: "Sometimes I realize what I have managed to achieve. I look for perfection too much. I always want more." And tennis fans could also get more. While Coria continues his rise on the ATP circuit, a 12-year-old boy named Federico will soon start following in his brother's footsteps by playing national tournaments."I believe in my brother," Coria says. "They are going to talk about him in a couple of years."