This is not about Ferrero, but he is mentioned by Gaudio...
Gaudio determined to keep French title
Thu May 19, 2005 2:01 AM BST
By Pritha Sarkar
DUESSELDORF, Germany, May 19 (Reuters) - Guillermo Vilas put Argentina on the tennis map when he held aloft the French Open trophy in 1977.
The South American nation had to wait another 27 years before another Argentine, Gaston Gaudio, won the most coveted prize in claycourt tennis.
Having got a taste of the heady heights of victory, Gaudio is in no mood to relinquish the title he won so unexpectedly last June in the French capital.
"This year I have to defend the title so it's going to be a little bit tough," Gaudio told Reuters at the World Team Cup on Tuesday ahead of the season's second grand slam, which begins next Monday.
"But I also feel more confident than before and I trust my abilities more than I did before.
"I feel better than last year as I have more confidence and believe that because I won it last year, I can do it this year too."
Gaudio's success at long last allowed Argentina to grab the 'kings of claycourt' crown away from their Spanish rivals.
While Albert Costa and Juan Carlos Ferrero walked away with the Roland Garros titles in 2002 and 2003, a flock of young Argentines had been threatening to snap the Spanish stranglehold in Paris.
An all-Argentine final between Gaudio and title favourite Guillermo Coria provided the breakthrough last year and the country's army of baseliners are determined to preserve their territory.
Along with Guillermo Canas, the country now has three top-10 players.
Twelve months ago, Gaudio was ranked 44th in the world and caught his challengers unaware, especially since he had failed to get his hand on any silverware for two years.
He wielded his racket to devastating effect on the slow red clay to claim the scalps of former world number one Lleyton Hewitt and compatriot David Nalbandian before bringing a cramping Coria to his knees in a tense, five-set final.
A year later, the unassuming Buenos Aires resident will arrive in the French capital as the number one player in South America and with a reputation to protect.
"I'm a little more nervous than last year because I didn't go there as one of the favourites," said world number six Gaudio, who has already won three claycourt tournaments this season.
"But there are 128 players who want to win it so it's going to be tough."
None will be a bigger threat than Spanish teenager Rafael Nadal.
Already a winner of five titles on the slow surface this year, the 18-year-old has been on a one-man mission to restore Spain's claycourt supremacy.
By winning an epic five-and-a-quarter-hour Rome Masters final against Coria earlier this month, Nadal not only proved his ability to last the distance in a five-set tussle but also placed himself as the front runner for the French slam.
"Everybody is worried about Nadal as he's definitely one of the favourites and he's playing great tennis," said Gaudio.
Having lost two Masters series finals to Nadal over the past month, Coria might have been bemoaning his luck.
Instead, he drew inspiration from his experience in Italy and is determined to make amends for his spectacular meltdown against Gaudio in last year's Paris showdown.
"The final in Rome gave me a lot of confidence. Even though I lost, I played some great tennis. It was a key match," said Coria, who underwent shoulder surgery last August.
"I was out of the game for three months. I did a lot of physical work and the tournament was very important for me to see how I was physically.
"Playing long matches really helps with your frame of mind. Now my aim in Paris is simple -- to win."
Nadal's success has taken its toll on his playing left hand. A painful blister on his forefinger prevented him from competing in last week's Hamburg Masters, giving his rivals a glimmer of hope for the French.
Ferrero is well versed in how injury can take its toll, especially since his 2004 season was ruined by illness and wrist problems. The gifted baseliner is determined that he will not turn out to be a one-slam wonder.
The former world number one is now ranked 34th and even if most pundits are not prepared to give him a chance of winning the title on June 5, Gaudio warned: "There are a lot of guys who can win the title but I think Ferrero is coming back again."
Ferrero agreed: "I'm playing good, I'm really good physically and I'm going to the balls really well. I am fast on the court right now and I feel I can win against anybody."