Coria Chases Roland Garros Destiny & Race Lead
Notes courtesy ITF media department
Guillermo Coria is one victory away from the No. 1 position in the INDESIT ATP 2004 Race; he will overtake Roger Federer in the top spot if he defeats Gaston Gaudio in Sunday’s Roland Garros final. Having been at No. 34 before the tournament began, Gaudio now stands at No. 9, but he will rise to No. 4 if he defeats Coria. A further 60 points are on offer for the 2004 Roland Garros champion.
Both Guillermo Coria and Gaston Gaudio are bidding to become the 48th different Grand Slam champion in the Open Era. Roland Garros has been the scene of a player’s first Grand Slam title 19 times in the Open Era, soon to be 20 times. The event has had more than twice as many first-time Grand Slam champions as any of the other majors. Nine men have won their first Slam title at the Australian Open and at Wimbledon, and ten have done so at the US Open (Open Era).
With a new Grand Slam champion guaranteed today, the run of majors during which no man has captured consecutive Grand Slam titles is extended to 17 events. It was already the longest streak without a back-to-back winner in Open Era history. Andre Agassi, as winner of the 1999 US Open and the 2000 Australian Open, was the last man to win consecutive majors.
This is the first all-Argentine final in Grand Slam tournament history, and Coria and Gaudio are the third and fourth different Argentines to reach a Grand Slam final. The nation is guaranteed a second Grand Slam champion, as a successor to the legendary Guillermo Vilas, and a fifth Grand Slam title.
This is the seventh all-nation men’s final at Roland Garros in the Open Era, and Argentina now joins a relatively exclusive club of countries to have featured in all-nation Grand Slam tournament finals. At Roland Garros, only three other nations, Australia, Spain and USA, have achieved this. Including all Grand Slam events, they are joined by Czechoslovakia, Germany and Sweden.
All four of the pair’s previous encounters have been on clay. Although Coria has won three of their four previous meetings, all of his victories have been achieved in three sets, and their last meeting was more than a year ago. Coria’s first win against Gaudio was en route to his first career title at Vina Del Mar, Chile, in 2001. Coria also went on to the title at TMS Hamburg in 2003 after defeating Gaudio in the semifinals.
Coria has won 48 of his last 50 clay court matches through his semifinal defeat of No. 9 seed Tim Henman, 36 64 60 75. That match, at two hours 46 minutes, was the longest he has played this tournament and marked the first time he has dropped a set here this year.
Just as impressive as Coria’s clay court win-loss record is his win-loss record in sets during his last 50 clay court matches. He has won 110 sets on clay, while losing only 19.
During his march to the final of 2004 Roland Garros, Coria has lost only 50 games in 17 sets, benefiting from Nicolas Escude’s retirement after one set in the round of 16. This is the easiest journey to the Roland Garros final of any man since Spaniard Alberto Berasategui lost 42 games on his way to the final in 1994. Berasategui defeated Magnus Larsson 63 64 61 in the semifinals before losing to countryman Sergi Bruguera 63 75 26 61 in the final.
Coria, at 22 years, 145 days on the last day of the tournament, is slightly younger than the man he was named after, Guillermo Vilas, was when he made the first of four final appearances here in 1975. Vilas was 22 years, 305 days old at the end of that 1975 tournament.
Coria was boys’ champion at Roland Garros in 1999, defeating countryman David Nalbandian 64 63 in the final. Only five of the 53 different Roland Garros Junior Boys’ Champions have gone on to win the men's singles title, most recently in 1988, when Mats Wilander claimed the last of three titles here. If Coria does go on to win the title, it will have taken him five years to progress from being Boys’ Champion to Men’s Champion, which would be the third shortest gap between the two achievements here (Ken Rosewall and Mats Wilander both won the men’s tournament one year after winning the boys’ event).
The last player to reach the men’s final here having first reached the boys’ final was Juan Carlos Ferrero, who reached the junior final in 1998 losing to Fernando Gonzalez 46 64 63, going on to reach the men’s final for the first time in 2002 losing to Albert Costa 61 60 46 63.
If Coria were to claim the title here, it would be the third time in the last four Grand Slam events that a junior champion has gone on to win the men’s event at the same major. At 2003 Wimbledon, Roger Federer won the men’s title having won the boys’ event in 1998, and at the 2003 US Open, Andy Roddick won the men’s title having won the junior title in 2000.
In his semifinal defeat of Tim Henman, Coria won 13 games in a row from 4-2 down in the second set to lead 36 64 60 30. He then lost five consecutive games to trail 5-3 in the fourth set, before winning four games in a row to win the match.
Coria’s progression to the semifinals at 2004 Roland Garros marked the 11th time in Open Era history that a player has reached the Roland Garros semifinals without losing a set. Coria was the first man to achieve this feat since Berasategui and Bruguera did so in 1994.
The last Argentine to advance to the semifinals here without losing a set was Guillermo Vilas, who did so as the No. 3 seed in 1982, and went on to reach the final without dropping a set. Vilas defeated Jose Higueras, the No. 14 seed, 61 63 76 in the semifinals, but lost in the final to Mats Wilander 16 76 60 64.
Coria was the first Argentine to advance to consecutive semifinals here since Jose-Luis Clerc in 1981 and 1982. The only other Argentine to do so in the Open Era was Guillermo Vilas in 1977 and 1978. Vilas in fact advanced to the final in both of those years, winning the first against Brian Gottfried 60 63 60, losing the second to Bjorn Borg 61 61 63.
At 2003 Roland Garros, as No. 7 seed, Coria defeated Andre Agassi 46 63 62 64 in the quarterfinals then lost in the semifinals to Martin Verkerk 76 64 76.
Following his semifinal finish here last year, Coria went on a 31-match winning streak on clay. His streak was halted by Roger Federer in the final at AMS Hamburg two weeks ago, the Swiss winning 46 64 62 63. Coria’s 31 consecutive clay court victories produced the longest winning streak since Thomas Muster won 38 in a row in 1995-96.
Coria’s winning streak on clay took in titles in Stuttgart, Kitzbuhel and Sopot in the second half of 2003, and titles at Buenos Aires and AMS Monte Carlo this year. He defeated Carlos Moya 64 61 in the final at Buenos Aires, and Rainer Schuettler 62 61 63 in the final at AMS Monte Carlo.
Despite his impressive clay court form, Coria’s 22-1 clay court win-loss record is second best for the season in terms of total wins behind Carlos Moya, who had a 28-6 record through his loss to Coria here in the quarterfinals.
After retiring from the NASDAQ-100 Open final in March (losing to Andy Roddick 67 63 61 ret.) with a suspected back injury, Coria missed two weeks of the season, including the first week of the European clay court season, with kidney stones. Having first been told in Miami that he was suffering from a discal hernia and could be out for five to six months, it was discovered in Argentina that he had kidney stones, that were cured by drinking lots of water.
Although clay is Coria’s preferred surface, he performed well in the American hard court Masters Series events in March/April, advancing to the quarterfinals at AMS Indian Wells (falling to Andre Agassi 64 75) and to the final at AMS Miami, where he retired against Andy Roddick as described above. It was his third hard court final from a total of 12 appearances in finals.
Gaudio has reached his first Grand Slam tournament final in his 21st Grand Slam event. In his semifinal defeat of No. 8 seed David Nalbandian, Gaudio won the first set, but Nalbandian led 5-1 in the second. Gaudio won 12 of the next 13 games to seal victory 63 76 60.
Gaudio is bidding to become the first unseeded Roland Garros champion since Gustavo Kuerten in 1997. In the Open Era, Roland Garros has now seen nine unseeded finalists. Of the eight previous, two went on to become unseeded champions, Kuerten following in the path of Mats Wilander in 1982.
There has now been an unseeded men’s finalist at four of the most recent five Grand Slam events, starting with Martin Verkerk at Roland Garros last year. Since then, it has happened at 2003 Wimbledon (Mark Philippoussis) and the 2004 Australian Open (Marat Safin) ahead of here.
If he wins the final, Gaudio will be the fourth lowest-ranked man to win a Grand Slam title in Open Era history and the history of the INDESIT ATP Entry Ranking.
Gaudio’s semifinal defeat of No. 8 David Nalbandian was his third victory over a seeded opponent at this event, and it improved his win-loss record against seeds at Grand Slam events to 5-6. Nalbandian is the highest seed he has defeated so far in his career. Before 2004 Roland Garros, Arnaud Clement, seeded No. 15 at the 2002 Australian Open, was the highest seed Gaudio had defeated at a major. Gaudio defeated Clement 64 46 62 76 in the second round there.
Before here, the round of 16 was the furthest Gaudio had ever advanced at a Grand Slam tournament, doing so at Roland Garros in 2002, when Hicham Arazi retired from their third round match with thigh cramps. Gaudio won 62 46 64 31 ret, then lost his round of 16 match to eventual runner-up Juan Carlos Ferrero 67 61 67 62 64.
By reaching the Roland Garros semifinals, Gaudio bettered the Roland Garros record of his coach Franco Davin. Davin, also of Argentina, reached the Roland Garros quarterfinals in 1991, losing to Michael Stich 64 64 64.
This is Gaudio’s sixth successive appearance at Roland Garros. Last year he also advanced to the third round, losing at this stage to three-times champion Gustavo Kuerten 76 75 57 63.
This being Gaudio’s 21st Grand Slam tournament, no man has taken as long to reach his first Grand Slam final since Albert Costa advanced to the Roland Garros final in his 26th attempt in 2002. Costa, of course, went on to win the title.
If Gaudio wins the title today, he will have taken the eighth most attempts to win a Grand Slam title of any man in the Open Era. There are currently seven men who have taken more than 21 majors to win a Grand Slam title.
In 2002, when he reached the round of 16 here in his best Grand Slam performance before now, Gaudio entered Roland Garros with the year’s third-best clay court record (by number of match wins). His 16-2 record that year ranked behind only Carlos Moya (19-5) and Younes El Aynaoui (17-4). Additionally, Gaudio entered the tournament having won 13 of his 14 previous matches, collecting back-to-back titles at Barcelona and Mallorca.
Although his form coming into Roland Garros this year was not as impressive as two years ago, Gaudio has now assembled an eight-match winning streak, having won both the singles matches he played at World Team Cup (defeating Lleyton Hewitt 63 57 76 and Martin Verkerk 46 62 64) the week before this event.
Clay is the only surface on which Gaudio has won back-to-back matches this season. In addition to reaching the quarterfinals at Vina Del Mar, he advanced to the final at Barcelona in an impressive run which included victories over Carlos Moya in the round of 16 and Gustavo Kuerten in the quarters. He lost in the final to Tommy Robredo 63 46 62 36 63.
Gaudio played back-to-back five-setters in the first two rounds of 2004 Roland Garros, improving his five-set record to 3-9. He had previously won just one five-setter in ten played, that being his first, when he defeated Bernd Karbacher 67 46 63 61 64 in the second round here in 1999.
Gaudio has been working with a sports psychologist to learn to relax and enjoy playing his matches more.