Paris: Argentina’s Gaston Gaudio won the French Open title here Sunday in dramatic circumstances, saving two match points as he battled back to a 0-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 8-6 win against compatriot Guillermo Coria.
As well as collecting 860,000 euros ($ 1.049 million) 25-year-old Gaudio, ranked a modest 44 in the world, becomes the first Argentine man to win a Grand Slam since Guillermo Vilas won the Australian Open in 1979.
Vilas was also the last Argentine to win here in 1977.
“Since I was a kid I have thought of this day and now that I am here it is too much for me,” said a tearful Gaudio. “I was so scared in the first two sets but because of the crowd I started to fight back.”
Coria said that Gaudio had shown courage by saving the two match points and deserved the title.
“He has had so many problems in his life and we have had our differences but he is a great player. I will be back next year and hope to get my revenge,” he added.
The heartbroken third-seeded Coria had been cruising to victory at one stage wrapping up the first two sets in just an hour and was looking at the possibility of taking the quickest ever final win in the history of the tournament.
But after failing to make sure of victory in the third set, he was forced to call for treatment from the physio on a damaged left thigh at 1-1 in the fourth and from that point on was labouring around the court.
He valiantly carried on, called for more treatment and tried to shake off the problem but had to concede the fourth set as he was reduced to walking pace around the court.
In a tense final set, both players lost their serves twice as the score reached 4-4 with Coria now suffering again, able only to serve rooted to the spot.
Incredibly, Coria broke to lead 5-4 but was unable to serve out the match as Gaudio came back to 5-5.
Again Gaudio held on, saving two match points in the 12th game before taking the next to go 7-6.
It was Coria who cracked. He hit a wild forehand to give Gaudio two match points but he only needed one when he unleashed a powerful backhand from the baseline which the exhausted Coria was unable to reach after three hours 31 minutes on court.
Gaudio’s win makes him the fourth lowest ranked player ever to win a Grand Slam title.
Earlier, top Seeds Paola Suarez of Argentina and Virginia Ruano-Pascual of Spain defeated second seeded Russians Svetlana Kuznetsova and Elena Likhovtseva 6-0, 6-3 in the women’s doubles final.
It was the Spanish-speaking pair’s ninth consecutive Grand Slam final and was a repeat of this year’s Australian Open final that also went to them.
The French Open win was their sixth Grand Slam title and they will now attempt to go on and win the only one they have failed so far to lift, at Wimbledon.
‘Gaudio wanted to quit’
Vilas said that Gaudio was on the brink of quitting the final. After losing the first 11 of the match’s 12 games, he cut a forlorn figure.
“He said he couldn’t believe he was playing like that and said he had had enough,” claimed Vilas who said the temperamental Gaudio made the threat after the fourth game of the second set.
“He was lost and working really slowly. He was confessing.”