The previous decade saw an unprecedented number of top Argentine players nor a more controversial group. Doping controversies, national pressure, infighting and disappointment followed them closely.
Argentina’s unique economic situation in the early 1990s with hyper inflation, left a lot of middle class families with nothing. For young Argentines, sport became a way out much like it is in developing countries. The famous case is Gaston Gaudio, who in order to help support his family took up tennis in an attempt to be a professional.
A common word among the Gauchos was ‘talent’. They all possessed mercurial games, a blend of power, consistency, guile and touch none more so than David Nalbandian, who still sits on top as the figure head of that generation. The aforementioned Gaudio had the sweetest one-handed backhand as did Agustin Calleri. Guillermo(s) Coria and Canas were a metronome of consistency on clay with Juan Ignacio Chela adding to the group a wily determination that is still winning him clay events today.
The doping allegations and revelations were unpleasant and hung like a cloud over the whole tennis nation. The worst offender was Mariano Puerta who was banned twice for substance abuse, which left other players who had never had anything to do with doping fighting the Argentine corner.
Frictions also arose within the group during Davis Cup ties and in singles matches. Coria and Gaudio never saw eye to eye and even peacemaker/talisman Nalbandian has had his run ins with his fellow team-mates, which we hope is behind him.
A new generation however, massively inspired by their predecessors continue to maintain a strong Argentine presence at the top of the men’s game with Juan Martin Del Potro (US Open Champion), Juan Monaco, Leonardo Mayer and Horacio Zeballos (a dead-ringer for Gaudio). This time however, it looks to be less eventful, which might take the pressure off this time.