Guillermo Coria - Career

Career

As a junior, Coria won the boy's singles title at the 1999 French Open by beating his friend and fellow Argentine, David Nalbandian, 6–4, 6–3 in the final. One month later at the 1999 Wimbledon Championships, Coria and Nalbandian teamed up to win the boy's doubles title by beating Todor Enev and Jarkko Nieminen, 7–5, 6–4.

Coria turned professional in 2000, finishing 2003, 2004, and 2005 as a top-10 player. He was one of the fastest players on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) tour, consistently showing great performances in clay-court tournaments. His playing style was that of a counter-puncher.

Coria tested positive for nandrolone in April 2001, after a match in Barcelona against Michel Kratochvil. This news of Coria testing positive was publicly revealed on the 10 July 2001. Coria was initially banned from tennis for two years, starting in August 2001, and was also fined $98,565. Coria claimed that the only supplement he was taking was a multivitamin made by a New Jersey supplements company. His family had a private lab test the multivitamin, which found them contaminated with steroids. In December 2001, the ATP refused to acquit Coria and reduced his ban from two years to seven months, meaning that he would be free to continue with his tennis career in March 2002. Coria sued the New Jersey supplements company for more than $10 million in lost prize money and endorsements and settled after the third day of the trial for an undisclosed amount.

As a result of the seven months where Coria was banned from playing tennis, his world ranking went from world no. 32 to world no. 97. 2002 was, therefore, a rebuilding year for Coria, and he finished 2002 ranked at world no. 45.

Coria signalled his arrival as a world class clay-court player in 2003 by reaching the finals in Buenos Aires, where he lost a tight best-of-three-sets match to Carlos Moyá, and at the Monte Carlo Masters, where he lost in two straight sets to Juan Carlos Ferrero. Coria went on to win his first Masters Series title at the 2003 Hamburg Masters, where he defeated Agustín Calleri in the final in three straight sets.

At the 2003 French Open, Coria defeated Andre Agassi in four sets in the quarterfinals, before suffering an upset loss to Martin Verkerk and his booming serves in the semifinals. In July 2003, Coria was increasingly establishing himself as the new king of clay by winning three clay-court tournaments in three weeks, the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart, the Generali Open in Kitzbühel and the Orange Prokom Open in Sopot. He won these three tournaments without dropping a set, dishing out five bagels and eight breadsticks in the process.

In 2004, Coria won the clay-court tournament in Buenos Aires and reached the final of the 2004 NASDAQ-100 Open on hard court, where he faced Andy Roddick. From the first set onwards, Coria was visibly hurt by pains in his back that later turned out to be kidney stones. Coria still managed to win the first set 7–6, but Roddick won the next two sets 6–3, 6–1, before Coria retired during the first game of the fourth set.

Three weeks later, Coria defeated Rainer Schüttler in three straight sets in the final of the Monte Carlo Masters to win his second Masters Series title. Coria had now won five clay-court tournaments in a row and had gone 26 matches unbeaten on clay. On May 3, 2004, Coria reached a career-high ranking of world no. 3. In attempting to defend his title at the Hamburg Masters, Coria increased his clay-court winning streak to 31 matches by reaching the final, where he lost to world no. 1 Roger Federer in four sets.

At the 2004 French Open, as the favourite to win the title, he reached the final, beating former world no. 1, Carlos Moyá, in the quarterfinals and British serve-and-volleyer, Tim Henman, in the semifinals; but he was unexpectedly defeated by unseeded compatriot Gastón Gaudio in an unprecedented all-Argentine final, 6–0, 6–3, 4–6, 1–6, 6–8. Coria had won the first two sets convincingly and was in control of the third set at 4–4 and 40–0 up on serve, before Gaudio broke Coria's serve and went on to take the third set. Coria then succumbed to leg cramps early in the fourth set, and was barely able to move at times, with many of his serves in the fourth set not even reaching the net. Despite this, Coria still managed to get the advantage at several stages of the fifth set, leading by a break of serve on no fewer than four separate occasions, including twice serving for the championship at 5–4 and 6–5. The latter game saw him narrowly miss the line with attempted winners on two championship points, making him the only male player in the open era to lose a Grand Slam singles final having held a championship point. Many fans and pundits agree that Coria was never the same player after the loss.

Coria surprised most people by reaching the first grass-court final of his career at 's-Hertogenbosch, losing the final to Michaël Llodra. Incredibly, this was only two weeks after the devastation of losing the French Open final. Coria then went on to defeat Wesley Moodie in a five-set match in the first round of Wimbledon, which took nearly three days to complete after the start of the match, as a result of rain and poor scheduling. Coria lost in four sets in the second round to Florian Mayer and got a bad injury to his right shoulder during the match. In August 2004, Coria had surgery on his right shoulder. He returned to the ATP tour in November for the Masters Cup, where he performed poorly.

Coria appeared in five finals after the 2004 French Open defeat and lost four of them, the most famous of which being the fifth set tiebreak loss to the rising king of clay, Rafael Nadal, in the 2005 Rome Masters final. He had led 3–0 with a double break and game point in the deciding set. The only final Coria won was on July 31, 2005, when he won in Umag, Croatia, defeating Carlos Moyá in the final. Afterwards, Coria joked that the small tournament was considered a fifth Grand Slam in his family, because his wife Carla hails from Croatia. Coria had a surprisingly consistent 2005 season, where he was one of only three players to reach the fourth round or better at every Grand Slam, the others being Roger Federer and David Nalbandian.

Despite having a consistent season in 2005, during his tournament victory in Umag he started to suffer from the service yips, a psychological condition that renders a tennis player unable to hit the ball at the correct moment when serving. At first, it wasn't really noticeable, but it really came to light during the 2005 US Open, when Coria served a combined 34 double faults in his fourth-round win over Nicolás Massú and his quarterfinal loss to Robby Ginepri. Against Ginepri, having already saved five match points, Coria was serving to take the match into a fifth set tiebreaker, when two double faults in a row from deuce gave Ginepri the win.

As the 2005 season drew to a close, Coria's form started to dip alarmingly as a result of the high number of double faults he was serving in an increasing number of his matches. Coria lost 9 of his last 11 matches of 2005. Some pundits have also speculated that his three losses in finals to the emerging Nadal may have hit his confidence worse than the loss to Gaudio.

Coria's service yips got increasingly worse in 2006, although he still managed to reach the third round of the 2006 Australian Open and managed a victory over Novak Djokovic at the 2006 Miami Masters without serving any double faults.

At the 2006 Monte Carlo Masters, Coria came back from 1–6, 1–5 down to defeat Paul-Henri Mathieu, despite serving 20 double faults in the match. Coria then defeated Nicolas Kiefer, despite serving 22 double faults, but he was then easily beaten by Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals. After Monte Carlo, Coria wins generally became fewer and further between, although he did manage a semifinal in Amersfoort in July 2006.

Coria withdrew from the 2006 French Open and Wimbledon as he attempted to sort out the problems with his game, recover from an elbow injury, and rediscover his old form. In August 2006, he hired Horacio de la Peña as his tennis coach. At the 2006 US Open, Coria retired in his first-round match against Ryan Sweeting after just five games. It would be 17 months before Coria played a match on the ATP tour again.

Coria made his return in a Challenger in Belo Horizonte, Brazil on October 22, 2007. He lost the first set 3–6 to fellow Argentine Juan Pablo Brzezicki and subsequently retired with a back injury. He had been leading in the first set 3–1.

Coria finally returned to the main ATP circuit in the Movistar Open in Chile on January 28, 2008. He showed positive signs of recovering his form, but was still defeated in the first round by Pablo Cuevas, 4–6, 6–3, 3–6.

In February, in his second ATP Circuit appearance of the year, Coria defeated Italian qualifier Francesco Aldi, 6–4 7–5. It was his first ATP victory in 19 months.

As a result of Andy Roddick's withdrawal from the 2008 French Open due to a back injury, Coria made his first Grand Slam appearance since the 2006 US Open, taking the place of the American. He faced Tommy Robredo, the three-time quarterfinalist and 12th seed, in the first round. Coria was defeated in four sets, 7–5, 4–6, 1–6, 4–6, but Coria's performance led to some optimism, even from Coria himself, who was close to forcing a fifth set.

Coria never managed to recover from the service yips that damaged his game and kept his ranking hundreds of places below his once top-10 position. On April 28, 2009, he announced his retirement from professional tennis, saying that he "didn’t feel like competing anymore."

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