For Gaudio's sake!
For the last few months in the ATP tour, there has been only one major bone of contention - a place in the season ending Tennis "Masters" championships - a tournament which pits the "top 8" players in the world against one another. Or so it claims. Andre Agassi, Tim Henman, Marat Safin, David Nalbandian and a couple of others were all in the race for Houston - trying to garner as many points as possible in the home stretch and join that elite octet. The trio of Roger Federer, Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewiit were - deservedly - sitting pretty as they had performed enough throughout the year, to guarantee themselves a place in the tournament. And wait, they actually had company - in the form of Gaston Gaudio. The ATP thinks that Gaudio, by virtue of conquering Roland Garros, ends up as one of the top 8 players of 2004. However, the facts, whichever way you look at them, suggest otherwise. The Argentine, has a win loss record of 37-21 for the year - 7 of those wins coming in the only tournament he won. A number of players ranked below him on the ATP leader-board - including Nicholas Keifer at 20 - have better figures than that! Other than winning the big one, he has made 4 other finals - Barcelona, Bastad, Kitzbuhel and Stuttgart - all on clay. And with the exception of Barcelona, where Gaudio - quite commendably - beat Moya and Kuerten before losing in the finals, these tournaments had sub par fields. That Rainer Schuettler, who is having his worst season in recent times, was the top seed in Kitzbuhel and Stuttgart should vindicate that statement. The rest of Gaudio's season was laced with losses to journeymen like Philipp Kohlschreiber (anyone who heard of him gets brownie points!), Todd Reid, Florian Mayer, Stefan Koubek and the like. His better performances have ended in respectable defeats to the perennial peripherals - Ginepri, Blake, Feliciano Lopez and Dominique Hrbaty - to name a few! Even in clay court tourneys with strong fields (Rome, Monte Carlo, Hamburg) he went out early - a loss to Irakli Labadze included. He also upheld a disturbing tradition of the recent clay court brigade, deciding to skip Wimbledon, for no apparent reason - other than any dislike for one night stands! For the record, Gaudio finished 2004 at number 10. To Gaudio's credit, he sliced through an extremely tough set of opponents at the French open, topping it off with that spectacular comeback against Corria in the final - and in the process, becoming the first Argentine since the great Vilas to win at Roland Garros. That should have been glory enough for him. However the ATP chose to decorate him further, with a free pass to the masters. So, In a bizarre turn of events, Andre Agassi finds himself out in the cold and not qualifying for the season finale (in what could be his last year on the tour) despite finishing in the top 8 (Nalbandian finished on 9th)! The concept of any ranking system - in any sport - is and should be consistency and not aberration. By not following that thumb rule, the ATP is contradicting it's own ranking system and in a way, belittling a tournament which it chooses to call the "Masters". BB