In the 2004 Roland Garros final, Gaston Gaudio came from two sets down to defeat Guillermo Coria in five sets for his lone Grand Slam championship. That day, an 11-year-old Diego Schwartzman was in Mar del Plata, where he was competing in a national junior tournament. The youngster watched in awe in the tennis club’s restaurant as Gaudio made his stunning comeback, dreaming of one day being in such a situation.
One of the opportunities the ATP Cup provides is for former stars like Gaudio to captain their countries, leading the current generation. So it’s a great scenario for Schwartzman, Guido Pella, Juan Ignacio Londero, Andres Molteni and Maximo Gonzalez to learn from a player with plenty of experience on the sport’s biggest stages.
“It's great for us. At the beginning we didn't know how it was going to be, and right now we are enjoying. It's a good relation for us,” Schwartzman said. “I think everyone is trying to learn [from] him as a coach, and we are trying to know what he wants us to do on court. For us, it's really nice. We are enjoying what he's doing with the team.”
Pella, Argentina’s No. 2 singles player, was 14 when Gaudio triumphed in Paris. Like Schwartzman, the lefty has a personal coach with him in Sydney — Jose Acasuso — who broke into the Top 20 of the ATP Rankings. But having Gaudio in the country’s corner is certainly a positive.
“He's one of the most important tennis players in Argentina history, so it's important for us to learn from him,” Pella said. “We are enjoying it a lot.”
Gaudio has plenty of confidence in his team, knowing that Schwartzman and Pella lead the way with ATP Rankings of No. 14 and No. 25, respectively. Pella is the highest-ranked No. 2 singles player in Sydney.
“We're talking about professional guys, they know exactly what they have to do. Sometimes maybe I can help them in the way that I have been there for a couple of times and maybe trying to talk as a friend and in the way of the experience that I got,” Gaudio said. “So I think that the most important thing is to get along with them and be kind of friendly, and in that way things may always go easy.”
Gaudio won’t force a certain game plan on Argentina’s players. Instead, he plans on adapting, and using all the tools at his disposal to assist, including the advice of personal coaches.
“It depends on the situation of the moment of the match. I'm going to share the match with the coach, the personal coaches that they have, so it's going to be easier for me this way,” Gaudio said. “You have to know exactly the right moment that you can say something to the players, because sometimes they're getting [put under] too much pressure, and you have to be [able to find] the right timing to talk to them.
“But in this case, it's going to be totally different, because I'm going to share the court with all the players and with the personal coach. So it's going to be kind of easy.”
Gaudio knows the pressures his country’s stars will feel on Ken Rosewall Arena having been in that position during his playing career. But is it easier for him to watch as captain?
“It's totally different. At the beginning, I thought it's going to be easier, but it's so much [more] difficult because when you are the one who is playing, you take your own decisions,” Gaudio said. “So you don't depend on anybody. But me being from the outside trying to explain to someone to execute what I'm saying is actually pretty tough. It's not easy.”
Team Argentina opens its campaign on Saturday against Team Poland.