I echo everything you´ve said here, George, you put it much better than I could have. Also Rosie (welcome home, btw!) Choupi and Eléa, you all have your heads and your hearts in the right place.
I didn´t even enter the forum yesterday, I was too upset about Gastón and how he would be taking it.
Luckily he seems to accept that it isn´t the end of the world, and David´s great triumph will help to take the pressure off him, now that the media have a better story to focus on!
As you know by now, I´m a student of the Gaudio mentality – rather difficult because I don´t know him personally, so I can only go by the clues he gives us.
I´m convinced his principal impediment is “nerves”, nothing like the common nerves that assail others, but real stage-fright (the “trac”, as it´s called in French and Spanish). This is a calamity for a high-competition sportsman, but because he plays fantastic tennis, he still became a pro and makes do as well as he can in spite of that burden. So when he wins it´s a true victory of the spirit over his demons!
Nowadays, with his greater confidence on clay since RG, he feels pretty good when playing the lesser tournaments, but his fear of humiliation returns when he´s competing for a big prize, and he freezes up. This can be conquered when he gets in a few good points, which is quite likely in clay events.
But when he´s on a surface where he feels unsure of himself, he starts up really badly
(see the first sets in Shanghai), and only seems to shake off the fear when he has nothing to lose. If there´s still time, and the other player gets nervous, he can claw his way up and win the match. If it´s too late (vs. Davydenko) or his opponent won´t cooperate by getting worried (Federer) he´s had it.
Against Fed we saw an extreme example of how his nerves act as a destabilising agent, it´s almost like playing injured. The easy way out would have been to simulate an injury, but he had the fortitude to see it through to the end, captive on that court with thousands watching (millions if you count the TV), feeling like he wanted to disappear and then wake up to find it was only a nightmare. For somebody with Gastón´s artistic, sensitive nature, what he went through yesterday took courage.
Luckily, he seems to be developing a thicker skin and I believe he will be able to put all this into perspective. Summing-up his year, he will value his five titles, (even the 50 points he had to resign), his Top Ten status, his semifinals in the Masters Cup, his improved game on hard, his better serves (not yesterday!) and forehand, and can look forward to a good 2006
. With the usual mixture of great and disastrous tennis.