Jul/19

31

Guillermo Coria Is The Best Player To Never Win A Major

The old debate pops up now and again, about who is the best tennis player to never win a major, and the same names get mentioned – Marcelo Rios, David Nalbandian, Todd Martin, Tomas Berdych, Cedric Pioline, etc.

I have a different view of the discussion. Guillermo Coria is the best player to never win a major, in my opinion.

Coria came close, the closest…he twice served for the championship and had match point in the fifth set in the 2004 final vs Gaston Gaudio, after squandering a two set lead and a 40-love lead at 4-4 on his serve in the third. But Gaudio was the superior force that afternoon and had the tennis gods on his side. Gaudio prevailed 06 36 64 61 86.

Coria is largely forgotten other than that heartbreaking Gaudio defeat (he lost in the Roland Garros semis 2003 to Martin Verkerk 76 64 76). Just 22 at the time, Coria’s career took a downward turn after losing to Gaudio at Roland Garros. He would only win one more title after, in Umag in 2005 (his ninth). He lost three clay finals to Nadal in 2005.

But Coria was a dominant baseline wizard. Standing just 5-foot-9, 150 something pounds, Coria won 218 ATP matches (114 losses) and reached a career high ranking of ATP no. 3 in May of 2004.

He was the “King of Clay” just before Nadal, winning four clay titles in 2003 (Sopot, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Kitzbuhel) and Basel indoors. Basel was his only non-clay title. He won Monte Carlo and Buenos Aires in 2004.

Coria and Rafael Nadal had a fierce rivalry in 2005, which was an official changing of the guard season where Nadal emerged with the Clay King crown.

Coria won the initial meeting of the two in 2003, 76 62 in Monte Carlo R16. Two years later in 2005, Nadal won the rematch in the final 63 61 06 75.

Then they played again weeks later in the Rome final, again Nadal emerged victorious in an excruciating thriller, 64 36 63 46 76 (8-6). Some called it the best match ever played on clay. Nadal won more than the match and the title, he had taken the mental edge from Coria and was viewed by the tennis world as the new “King of Clay.”

But Nadal had to win Paris to confirm the lofty status and that he did by conquering Mariano Puerta 63 61 75. Coria fell in the R16 to Nikolay Davydenko, 62 36 67 26. Coria was never again a factor at Roland Garros.

He did continue to play until 2008 and into 2009, posting only mediocre results. Coria’s ranking tumbled outside the top 500 and he could never again re-create his early career magic. Coria lost his last ATP match in 2009 in Bangkok, to Harel Levy 63 62. He was just 27 years old. He said he didn’t “feel like competing anymore.”

Though the sensational career of Guillermo Coria ended in a whimper, few who saw him at his best will forget just how ruthlessly precise and consistent, how technically proficient and consistent he could play tennis. Pound for pound, inch for inch, few players in history were better than the man from Argentina.

“El Mago” came within a single point of winning Roland Garros. He forced Rafael Nadal to summon his very best tennis in Rome. Guillermo Coria is the best player to never win a major title.

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5 comments

  • Jeff · August 1, 2019 at 1:41 am

    Scoop, this is strange considering how much you support Rios, who is the obvious choice. I also think Coria can’t be since he never attained the No. 1 ranking.

    Some other players to consider include Mark Philippousssis, who is one of the most talented players ever to strike a tennis ball.

    Certainly the great David Ferrer belongs on this list. ALso Robin Soderling and Tim Henman, who incredibly reached four semifinals and four QFs in Wimbledon without breaking through.

    Also of note is Kei Nishikori, who has a better record against Nick Kyrgios (4-0) than any of the vaunted ‘Big 3’ if you think that is impressive. Nishikori has won an astounding 72 percent of Slam matches.

    If you ask me, I think Kei Nishikori is the greatest player never to win a Slam. He is 5-1 against Berdych, 6-3 against Tsonga, 9-6 vs. Cilic, 4-1 vs. Monfils and 501 against Dimitrov. He has only struggled against the Big 3, Murray, Wawrinka and Del Potro.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 1, 2019 at 5:31 am

    Jeff its very close but Coria was a little better and more consistent than Rios, he came closer to winning a major than Rios who was annihilated by Korda 626262. Rios was no. 1 but he was unable to threaten for a major as fiercely as Coria did.

  • Harold · August 1, 2019 at 7:39 am

    Heres a choice

    Cedric Pioline…2 Major final, 2 semis, won a Masters, lost in finals of two other

  • Harold · August 1, 2019 at 7:41 am

    Pioline’s final losses came against Sampras, not Korda, or Gaudio

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 1, 2019 at 9:22 am

    I tried to interview Pioline about Facing Sampras and he was still bitter about it and wouldn’t talk, but I included the exchange anyway. Sampras destroyed Pioline’s career, in those two major finals which were blowouts and Pete also beat Pioline to cost him a place in the year end masters. It was funny how two decades later, Pioline was still bitter about it.

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