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Gaudio feeling heavenly

June 07, 2004 14:30 IST

Gaston Gaudio earned his place in tennis heaven with a sensational victory in five dramatic acts over Guillermo Coria at the French Open on Sunday.

All it took was a little bit of faith.

"It's like I touch heaven, you know. It's everything," the unseeded Argentine said.

Throughout his career, Gaudio has had to fight above all against a tendency to self-doubt and he had to pinch himself to accept he was playing a Grand Slam final on centre court at Roland Garros.

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Eight games had gone Coria's way before the 25-year-old from the suburbs of Buenos Aires started to realise where he was and what he was doing.

He was seen talking to his coach, sighing, as if watching a bad film in which the leading role was played by Coria.

"It's tough to be in a final 6-0, 5-1 down. I was suffering so much. I was telling my coach that I want to leave, I don't want to be here," he said.

Then, suddenly, everything changed. The Parisian crowd started a Mexican wave and Gaudio held his serve at last.

Gaudio said: "I think that it was the moment that the people started to do the waves. From that moment, I think that I started to enjoy it more, to be more relaxed and to try to play my tennis."

He explained: "Until that moment, I couldn't play at all. I was too nervous and I didn't do anything."

Gradually, as cramps got the better of Coria, the second fiddle realised he could steal the show and the film became much more pleasant to watch.

Gaudio won the next two sets 6-4, 6-1, almost as easily as Coria had won the first two, and finally started to believe in his chances.

The fifth set was a nervous affair with five breaks of serve in the last six games before Gaudio finally clinched it.

He said: "I guess until now I never believed that I could win a Grand Slam. Today, until the last point, I was not even thinking that I was going to win this tournament. Maybe from now on, I'm gonna believe in myself more."

Heaven is within reach now, and Gaudio can hardly believe he has emulated his teenage idol Guillermo Vilas by winning the French Open.

"But you can't compare me with Guillermo Vilas," the new champion said. "It's thanks to him that I was able to play. He won many titles. Nobody's going to catch up on what he did."

Francois Thomazeau
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