The figure of Andrés Gómez it resonates strongly every time it is named, especially in the Latino press. Their last names are in the Olympus of tennis, and they occupy a special place in that of their country. He is still one of its greatest exponents, someone who has carried the image of Ecuador to all the world. All this would have a minor effect without two magical weeks that took place exactly 30 years ago in Paris. There, in the French capital, a tall, powerful and humble player achieved the greatest success of his career, a success that deserves to be remembered.
For the year 1990That Ecuadorian was not a teenager looking to make his mark on the circuit. We are in a time of young talents, precocious teachers who did not need cooking or experience to succeed in large squares. Ivan Lendl was still on the crest of the wave, but the generation of the McEnroe and Connors was fading to make way for the Agassi, Chang, Sampras or Courier. It was a constellation of stars that overshadowed large stonecutters on the racket, experienced players who had long fought for privileged positions.
Andrés was one of them. At 30, the Ecuadorian had experienced the greatest success of his career in doubles, where he had already been crowned in the Us Open (with Zivojinovic) and in himself Roland Garros (with Emilio Sánchez Vicario). His performance in singles had been no less: he had already accumulated 22 titles, two of them in the Central del Foro Italico, a place for clay legends. In Paris, however, there was a man who appeared in his nightmares, a cold-looking cyborg who embittered his existence: Ivan Lendl.
The Czechoslovakian had defeated him up to four times in the land of Paris. It was Andres’ Wailing Wall, someone put down by fate who seemed to say no, that his precious Major would never win on land. He even made him weigh the withdrawal once he entered his thirties and far from his best moment. It was then that he received the news that Lendl would decide not to contest the Paris event to focus all his energies on Wimbledon, the Grand Slam that had eluded him his entire career. The opportunity had come, and Andrés knew it.
Fernando Luna, Marcelo Filippini, Alexander Volkov, Magnus Gustafsson (by default), Thierry Champion and Thomas muster. The names became corpses and fell like flies before an Andrés who followed his routines. Humble off the track, electric under the Philippe Chatrier’s cloak of dirt. Present in Paris, his son Juan Andrés (two years old at the time) and his wife helped him not to put too much pressure on his back, they were the emotional release he needed. But the last obstacle was still missing, an irreverent young punk aesthetic who was also in his first Grand Slam final.
The press gave Andre Agassi as the big favorite to win that final. It was time for one of the most promising youngsters on the circuit to finally consecrate himself. It was the future of tennis, the child prodigy from the Bollettieri Academy: tennis was with him, and more so against a rival who seemed to be nothing more than a hard bone on the ground. Andrés, in the preview, had a different perception: “We had played three times and I had the advantage of 2 wins to 1. I felt I was a favorite, I felt that I was the favorite and that this was the tournament I had fought so hard for. That was my day: all I could do was win. “
What happened that Sunday of 1990 was history. Many have narrated it, but perhaps few have done it better than Andre Agassi, with the rest and the reflection that time leaves, in his autobiography: “My game plan was a reflection of my nerves, of my shyness. As I know that It’s a five-set match, my plan is to lengthen the match, to look for long plays, to exhaust it. As soon as the match begins, however, I realize that Gómez is very aware of how old he is, he tries to speed things up. “
Andre went indolent and Andrés went out like a shot. At 30 years old, the Ecuadorian is facing a now or never. His “slingshot” serve (as defined by Agassi) does a lot of damage and allows him to stay fresh. His right is devastating, changing directions and giving him control. The points are short, and although they go the same set, both know that fatigue will not be a determining factor. “The game turns into a cannon fighter, a fight that Gómez can win (…) it is evident that my game plan has been wrong from the beginning. Pathetic, actually. You can’t play a Grand Slam final without losing, expecting your opponent to lose. “
That phrase perfectly defines why Gómez succeeds. Yes, Agassi was a bundle of nerves and he was more worried about not leaving his hairpiece on the Chatrier land than about anything else, but in the same way, Gómez plays like a possessed man, who executes precisely what his mind and heart dictate. His serve is never weakened, his game is strong at crucial moments. After four intense sets, Andrés raises his hands, cries, peers at an Ecuadorian flag in the stands. You know that suddenly you have become a hero in his country.
“Today I was never nervous on important points, when I was below, and I always had that willpower to return. That’s what tennis is about. Maybe in the past I did not play the important points well, but today I did and that was what changed, “said Andrés after finishing that dream week. It was a fairy tale story and the counterpoint to the revolution that was taking place on the circuit, just a day before Monica Seles had become the youngest winner in the history of the women’s edition, and there was her name, too.
Was the penultimate title of his career, a perfect eclipse to years of hard work. The only Ecuadorian Grand Slam champion who left his mark in his own way, waiting for the perfect moment and showing the mental integrity of which many falter when their time comes. He silenced the most critical, those who gave him no options, and surprised himself. Andrés Gómez can proudly say that he was a Grand Slam champion. And there is no better time to remember it than this.