Coria, Vilas, Gaudio at Roland Garros 2004

Coria vs Gaudio: the egotist vs the underdog

From Tennis Confidential II by Paul Fein:

If 1970s champion Guillermo Vilas is a god in Argentina, Guillermo Coria is the current people’s choice. He’s so beloved in his homeland that when he appears in restaurants he gets standing ovations? Ironically he’s far less popular with other players, including his fellow countrymen whom he nearly always (23-5) beats. Coria has been known to mock his opponents after he wins and seldom, until recently, gives them credit when he loses.

Like oil and water, Coria and Gaston Gaudio will never mix. They are too different. They come from different family backgrounds, and they have different approaches to tennis and life. Like Andre Agassi, Coria was pressured since he was bon to be the greatest tennis player of this generation. His dad, a tennis coach, named him after Vilas; the cake for one of his first birthdays was racquet-shaped; and he has played tournaments since he was too young to remember. Gaudio enjoyed football and rugby in his childhood, and only picked up tennis because his older brother was playing it at the same time. He discovered he liked it and was good at it. Gaudio decided to turn pro only after his father had a heart attack and his family experienced money problems: he thought tennis could be an excellent way of making money to help his family.

Like Connors, Coria needs and feeds on the rivalries, the feuds to feel his competitiveness. His anger pushes him. He looks for other players to beat. Only someone with a superiority complex would rent a hotel for the anticipated victory celebrations before the 2004 French Open final, as Coria did. Lo and behold, he lost to heavy underdog, No. 44-ranked Gaudio, who was so shocked that he confided,

“I don’t know how I win. I can’t believe it yet. This is like a movie for me. And I don’t even know it, but I’m the star.”

In complete contrast, conflict-avoiding Gaudio has problems competing against many players on the tour (Mariano Zabaleta, Juan Ignacio Chela, Carlos Moya, and others; he’s even good friend of Lleyton Hewitt) because they are his amigos and he cares about them. He has also stated many times that he’s his own worst enemy because he’s too much of a perfectionist, and he’d rather play well than win.

The bad blood between these two 5’9″ started in the 2001 Vina del Mar final which Coria captured. They celebrated points by glaring at each other. A week later te simmering feud heated up when they collided in the Buenos Aires Open quarterfinals. In low voices they exchanged nasty remarks. After Gaudio won, he unfurled an Independiente flag (the football team he passionately supports) and jogged toward Esteban Cambiasso, the team’s star who was celebrating Gaudio’s triumph. Coria swears that, while Gaudio was going toward Cambiasso, he “hit” him in the face with part of the flag.

Their most bitter confrontation happened after Coria prevailed in the 2003 Hamburg semifinal. Coria asked for the trainer when Gaudio was gaining momentum going into the second-set tiebreaker. After the short treatment Gaudio took the tiebreaker, but Coria, without showing any signs of cramping or any other injury, won the deciding set 6-0. When Coria limped to the net to shake hands, a provoked Gaudio insulted him by saying,

“You are a ghost.”

One rumor had it that the two gauchos wanted to slug it out in the locker room and had to be separated, while another was that Gaudio’s brother was the most angry man and the instigator there.

Since then the two have managed a d├ętente of sorts – perhaps due to the calming influence of Coria’s wife, Carla – although Gaudio admitted that he initially thought Coria was again faking cramps in the Roland Garros final. Their animosity resurfaced at the 2005 World Team Cup when Coria withdrew from his round-robin singles match against the two-time defending champion Chileans, claiming his shoulder was injued.

“I’m fed up, one has to tell the truth,” fumed Gaudio. “This isn’t a team because there’s someone who makes decisions choosing what’s best for him. Coria and I were the best team, but f we were a real team this wouldn’t have happened.”

A well-known Argentine journalist reveals that

“Gaudio told me off the record he hates when Coria gives escuses prior to a big match. He thinks he’s always lying? And Gaudio thinks before some Davis Cup ties Coria faked injuries because he doesn’t have the courage to represent his country.”

“Coria is selfish because he’s extremely competitive. Gaudio is too sincere, he will say what he thinks, and he is justifiably envious that the Argentine media and the National Tennis Association treat Coria better. I predict the feud will remain the same. They won’t talk to each other, but they will badmouth each other.”

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