Long story for this one.
This is from the Davis Cup tie between Chile and Ecuador in 2004.
The year started with such promise because Nico had done so well in 2003, going from over 100 in the world to 12th in the world. But there was so much pressure on Nico back in Chile to make it up into the Top Ten. Every single day there was another article in the online newspapers about when he would finally break into the Top Ten, and he didn't handle the pressure well.
He lost in the first round in every tournament at the beginning of the year. Then there was the Davis Cup tie against Peru. Too much to go into but lots of friction between everyone because Nico didn't want Horacio de la Pena to be the Chilean captain.
Nico did okay in the Latin America swing, but everyone could see the pressure written all over his face. By the time he hit the Brasil tournament, the papers were chatting about how he needed to see a psychologist about his inability to get into the Top Ten yet.
The cliched sh*t hit the fan during Indian Wells and Miami. Nico played Rafa at Indian Wells, and he retired in the 2nd set. People who were there said that he said on court that he didn't need to put up with this when he was losing. Then everything really blew up during Miami. Nico played Andrei Pavel, and while he didn't retired, he stopped trying in the 2nd set after losing the first set tiebreak. Not only didn't he try, he pretty much just stood there on court and didn't do anything. He was fined $10,000 and had to pay his own hotel bill.
After the match, he basically disappeared. Fernando and Marcelo said that Nico told them that he didn't want to play tennis anymore. Of course, Chile had a Davis Cup tie against Ecuador so the press went wild because no one could get a hold of Nico, not even the Chilean tennis federation.
Then a couple of days before he was supposed to show up for the tie, his dad, Don Manuel, went to the press and told them that they had to stop putting pressure on Nico, that they were making him crazy. He also said that Nico had been in Argentina during the week.
Of course, everyone was very worried about Nico, and supposedly when he finally got to Chile, he wasn't in the best frame of mind. I was very worried about Nico, but I knew he was feeling better when he got mad at everyone. He told them that they should stop asking him if he was ill, because he was fine!!
One of the reasons that I've always liked Horacio was that despite his and Nico's constant battles, he really helped Nico that week. Obviously he wanted the win, but Nico got a bit of his confidence back that week.
So finally we come to the picture. After Nico beat Gio Lapentti, this picture was taken. Don't know exactly why Nico was ssshhh'ing everyone, but I've always thought it was to tell everyone to stop talking about why he wasn't in the Top Ten yet and why he was feeling so pressured.
Took Nico a bit of time to get to the Top Ten that year, and he didn't stay there long - only one week. But hey, he did it - # 9 - and that's all that counts!