Why was it a shock?
Leading into the 2004 French Open, Gaston Gaudio was 13-13, unseeded, and had never gone past the third round at the French Open.
Meanwhile Guillermo Coria was 28-7, the third seed, and had reached the French Open semifinals the previous year.
Coria’s clay court season leading into French Open was superb; winning in Buenos Aires and Monte Carlo.
In fact, Coria’s form was so good that he reached the final of the hard court tournament in Miami—somewhat of a shock, given Coria was a clay court specialist and had been knocked out in the first round of the Australian Open.
Rewind back to the 2004 French Open final. Gaudio is down 0-6, 3-6, would you even have contemplated about Coria losing in five sets?
World No. 49 Rafael Nadal was nursing a stress fracture.
First seed Roger Federer had only won two Grand Slams, and had yet to find his mojo at the French Open.
Perennial Wimbledon semi-finalist Tim Henman reached the French Open semi-finals!
The 2004 French Open was an era post-Björn Borg, yet pre-Nadal; so unconventional winners like Albert Costa, Michael Chang and Yannick Noah popped up.
In the final, it was a matter of when, not if Coria would beat Gaudio.
Seemingly Elena Dementieva’s passionless and static performance in the women’s final had rubbed off on Gaudio.
Yet what ensued was perhaps the biggest French Open choke since Gabriela Sabatini somehow managed surrender a 6-1 and 5-1 lead and lose to Mary Joe Fernández.
Coria fluffed a two set lead, two match points and countless breaks; and in the process handed Gaudio a shock French Open triumph.
It was Gaudio’s first and only Grand Slam.