Tuesday, August 3, 2004

French champ seeks success on hard courts


He's now ranked ninth

By Colleen Kane
Enquirer staff writer

MASON - It has been nearly two months since unseeded and then 44th-ranked Gaston Gaudio clawed his way to a French Open win over Guillermo Coria for his first Grand Slam title and third career title.

Agassi
Andre Agassi returns in the third set against Mardy Fish during first round play at the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters.
(Craig Ruttle/The
Cincinnati Enquirer)
More photos from Monday

TENNIS COVERAGE
Mason showcases stars
Agassi wins after vow to go down swinging
Relaxed Federer has tight grip on top spot
French champ seeks success on hard courts
Haas reaches goals as quickly as he sets them
Injured Clijsters joins fiance Hewitt at tourney
Russian ends losing streak with first win in two months
Fish's bad back serves up another loss
Masters results, schedules

Gaudio says his personal life hasn't changed much, except for increased recognition when he goes out, but the win jump-started his career. He made the finals of three straight clay court tournaments in July - in Sweden, Austria and Germany - and sits in ninth place in the newest ATP rankings.

"It's given me so much confidence," Gaudio said. "I'm playing a little bit more relaxed and taking the matches a little bit easier, and I don't get so mad like I did before."

Now if only he can translate that success to the Cincinnati hard courts.

The 25-year-old Argentine is off to a good start. He beat 80th-ranked U.S. player Jan-Michael Gambill 6-4, 6-2 in the first match on Center Court of the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters main draw.

Gambill had won the last two meetings between the players, in Miami in 2001, and at the U.S. Open in 2002.

Gaudio's three career singles wins, two doubles wins (both this spring with Juan Ignacio Chela) and his seven trips to tournament finals all have come on clay. Last week, he was eliminated on the hard courts in the first round of the Canada Tennis Masters in Toronto.

"I played great (Monday). I was getting used to this surface because I've played so many tournaments on the clay courts," Gaudio said. "Last week, I didn't play like I was playing before, but now I'm getting used to the surface. For me, it's really tough to play on this surface. I prefer to play on clay, but I have to play on all of them. So I don't know, we'll see tomorrow, see if I can play like this again."

He will play Wednesday against Greg Rusedski, who defeated Thomas Enqvist 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 Monday afternoon.

Gaudio, one of three Argentines in the top 10 of the ATP rankings, is playing in Cincinnati for the fifth time. His best performance here came when he reached the third round last year, but perhaps more memorable was his 2001 opening round defeat of Andre Agassi.

"Always when I came here to Cincinnati, I played good," Gaudio said. "I like to play here. I like the city. ... So the whole tournament is good for me."

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E-mail ckane@enquirer.com




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Photos from Monday
Agassi wins after vow to go down swinging
Relaxed Federer has tight grip on top spot
French champ seeks success on hard courts
Haas reaches goals as quickly as he sets them
Injured Clijsters joins fiance Hewitt at tourney
Russian ends losing streak with first win in two months
Fish's bad back serves up another loss
Masters results, schedules

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