Written by Diana Gabanyi
Three time French Open champion, Gustavo Kuerten announced this Tuesday, in a packed press conference, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, that he will go on a farewell tour in 2008, finishing his successful career in Paris, at his beloved tournament, Roland Garros.
Ranked number one in the ATP list for 43 weeks, having won of 20 titles, including his three French Opens and a Masters Cup and 8 doubles titles, the Brazilian tennis idol, decided he can no longer fight against his troubled hip.
Photo by Joao Pires
Guga first underwent arthroscopic surgery in his right hip, in Februray 2002. He was able to recover, still be competitive and win titles, but after the second arthroscopic surgery, in September 2004, even with the greatest efforts, he could never find the stability in his right leg again.
For almost three years Guga tried everything he could to come back on top form to the tour, but not being able, he decided to say good bye to his fans, in his favorite tournaments and to finish his career in the tournament that changed his life forever, almost 11 years ago.
It was 1997 when ranked 66th in the world, little known Gustavo Kuerten arrived in Paris, wearing a yellow and blue t-shirt from Diadora, with whom he recently reunited, to take the world by storm. WIthouth never having won an ATP title, Guga defeated three ex-French Open champions – Muster, Kafelnikov and Bruguera – to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires.
His victory made him an instant idol in Brazil and a world wide tennis star. His first victory in Paris was followed by 19 other titles, including two more in Roland Garros, in 2000 and 2001 and the Masters Cup, in the year 2000, in Lisbon. The victory in Portugal, after having beaten Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi in two consecutive days (he is the only player to have done so), led him to the top of the world rankings. Guga became the first South American player to finish the year as the number one player in the world.
For his farewell tour, Guga intends to play at the Brasil Open, the only ATP event played in the country and where he won the title twice, in 2002 and 20004; the Sony Ericsson Open, in Miami, where he played one of the most exciting matches of his career, losing a tough battle to Pete Sampras in the final, in the year 2000; the Santa Catarina Challenger, an event that will be played in his hometown, so he can say good bye from the courts to his native people; the Monte Carlo Masters Series, where he is a two time winner (1999 and 2001), and either the Masters Series in Rome, or in Hamburg. He lifted the trophy in Italy in 1999 and was a runner-up there in 2000 and 2001 and he was a winner in Germany, in the year 2000. This will all lead him to his second home, Paris, so he can say his final good bye.
While he practices hard, with long time coach Larri Passos, in Santa Catarina, Guga is already looking into his future without the commitments of a professional player. He is looking forward into dedicating time to this Institute, Instituto Guga Kuerten, helping develop Brazilian Tennis and also spending a lot of time on the surfboard.
GUGA – QUOTES
“This is a very special moment and I want to tell that I have been planning on going on a farewell tour this year. For the past three years I have been trying to get back to the top level, to get back my top physical form, but I wasn’t able, the physical limitations made me quit. I had expectations and mentally it became very difficult, so now I decided to enjoy my favorite tournaments for the last time, get the happiness back of being on a tennis court, find some inspiration in this last tournaments – different from the past – have a chance to see the people, be with the fans, and say good bye like I always imagined, not disappearing from one day to another. If physically I was 100% I would love to play for some more years. But in tennis you can’t think and live with ifs, so I chose the most special tournaments for me and Roland Garros will be my last tournament. I am also trying to get a wild card to play in the Olympics, in China, but from the official tour, Roland Garros will be my last event.”
“I had been thinking about this in the past three months. The end of the year comes, you start thinking about the next season, I talked a lot with Larri Passos and my family and we were able to make this decision and prepare something very special for the end of my career. I remember when I was just starting to play the tour, I think it was in 1996, Edberg was leaving and he had a farewell similar to what I want to do, saying good bye to his favorite tournaments and also being very professional.”
“As a player, I felt I reached my best moment when I won the Masters Cup in Lisbon. In that tournament I achieved so much, it was very special, being in Portugal, speaking Portuguese, having all my family there, beating Sampras and Agassi, winning the event and reaching the number one ranking. And also, the most incredible experience I had on a tennis court was that match with Michael Russell, in Paris, in 2001, when I had to save match point. It was the strongest feeling, emotions, I had on court as a player.”
“Probably the biggest compliments I ever got from the players were from Agassi, when I won the Masters Cup, in Lisbon and he told me to enjoy that moment (I really did), and from Kafelnikov, after I beat him the third time in Roland Garros and he said I played like an artist, with traces like Picasso.”
“I look back at my career and I realize how happy I have always been playing tennis. Even long hours of practise have never been a burden for me. I enjoyed it and now I feel the responsibility to giving it back, to showing to everyone the happiness I had when I was on the court. I think I inspired a lot of people showing I had pleasure in what I was doing.”
Guga intends to play the following tournaments:
11/02 – Brasil Open / Costa do Sauípe (ATP) –
24/03 – Sony Ericsson Open / Miami (Masters Series ) –
14/04 – Aberto de Santa Catarina / Florianópolis (Challenger)
21/04 – Masters Series Monte Carlo –
05/05 – Campionati BNL d’Italia (Masters Series)
12/05 – Masters Series Hamburgo –
26/05 – Roland Garros (Paris) –