In the final of Monte Carlo 2003, the crowd had a chance to see the battle between the defending champion and world no. 3 Juan Carlos Ferrero and Guillermo Coria. Due to bad weather, the title match had to go down to the best-of-three format for the first time since 1993, and Juan Carlos became the first player to defend the title in the Principality after Thomas Muster in 1996 following a commanding 6-2, 6-2 victory in just an hour and 16 minutes.
It was the sixth ATP crown for the 23-year-old, and his second win in as many matches against the Argentine, ousting him in the third round at Roland Garros a year earlier. Fererro earned his third Masters 1000 title after two tough matches against Felix Mantilla and Gaston Gaudio in rounds two and three, standing as the player to beat from the quarter-final after dropping only 13 games in the last three encounters to keep the trophy in his hands.
It wasn't the final that people would remember for a long time, with a one-sided scoreboard and too many errors on both sides. Coria served at 75%, but that was hardly noticed, losing 61% of the points behind the initial shot to struggle in almost every service game and getting broken six times from 11 chances offered to the Spaniard.
Ferrero tamed his strokes more efficiently, dropping 42% of the points in his games and getting broken twice, enough to control the pace and cross the finish line first. Except for a few good games, Coria never found the desired rhythm, struggling to keep the pace with his rival or impose his shots in the exchanges.
He stood on 40 errors in total, way too many for such a short clash. He fired only ten winners and found it challenging to create an open space and make room for his forehand. Ferrero was far more potent with his right-wing shot, making fewer mistakes than his rival to control the scoreboard and celebrate the title.
Juan Carlos covered the court nicely and forced Coria to go for riskier shots, something he wasn't capable of producing that day, especially not after 20 forehand errors. The Spaniard was in front in both the shorter and more extended exchanges, playing well with his first groundstroke after the serve or return and mixing his game nicely to keep the rival behind.
Unable to overpower his opponent from the baseline, Coria attempted to impose drop shots to move Ferrero from the comfort zone, which didn't work well either, as he struggled to find the right way to lose the grip around himself.
As was expected, there were just nine service winners, and the Spaniard had a clear edge in the winners from the field department, blasting 16 against only six from Guillermo. Juan Carlos used every shorter ball to impose his forehand and get in front in the exchanges, although they both had many unforced errors from the more substantial wing.
Coria finished the clash on 24, and Ferrero added 20 (42,7% of all points ended up with an unforced mistake), and the Argentine also made more forced errors, 14-11.
In 2003, Juan Carlos Ferrero defended the Monte Carlo crown vs.
Overall, Juan Carlos had 21 winners and 32 errors, while Guillermo stood on ten winners and 40 mistakes, unable to grab more games and prolong the match with such a poor ratio. Ferrero grabbed 24 out of 38 shortest points up to four strokes, delivering a better package of serve and the first groundstroke to create an excellent advantage in that segment.
He also had a slim 17-15 lead in the mid-range points with five to eight shots, dominating the most extended exchanges after winning 20 out of 33 points that hit the nine-shot mark. Ferrero opened the match with a break after Coria's three errors, cementing it with a solid hold in game two for an early lead.
Guillermo suffered another break in game three, spraying eight mistakes so far and struggling to keep his backhand safe. It was Juan Carlos' turn to play a loose service game, getting broken in game four after four errors, with the Argentine reducing the deficit to 3-1.
Coria fended off two break chances in game five with much-needed winners and held after Ferreros' two mistakes to stay in touch in the opener. The Spaniard played well and had the upper hand in the rallies, welcoming three new Coria's loose shots in game six and the additional four in the next one to forge a 5-2 advantage!
He won four points in a row in that eighth game, overpowering his opponent from the baseline and closing the set with his first service winner. Juan Carlos broke at the beginning of the second set with a forehand winner after a ten-shot rally and saved two break chances to earn a 2-0 lead.
The Spaniard won three longer points on the return in game three and sealed another break with a forehand return winner that sent him 6-2 3-0 in front. We finally saw Coria's decent tennis in game four, as he controlled the exchanges' pace with his backhand.
Still, he made three mistakes in the game that followed to spoil everything he did a few minutes before, sending Ferrero 4-1 ahead. Guillermo couldn't find his range in game six, spraying four mistakes and serving to stay in the match at 1-5.
The Argentine held after deuce and created a break chance in the next one, only to be denied by Ferrero's forehand winner. A service winner delivered the victory for Juan Carlos after just 76 minutes, gaining the title much easier than he expected against such a tough rival.