Gustavo Kuerten known as â€œGugaâ€ is a former No. 1 player from Brazil. Kuerten captured Roland Garros titles three times â€“ in 1997, 2000 and 2001. He defeated RussianÂ Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the quarterfinals in all three years he won the French Open. This made his win even more remarkable since Kafelnikov was playing some of his best tennis. Kuerten also validated his three victories by beating two top ten players on his way to the title in all three events. So the road was not easy for Guga, who definitely showed amazing fortitude of character, a unique game with solid ground strokes and agility on the clay. After his victories, Kuerten not only left his tears on the court afterÂ winning,Â he also literally left a heart as well, drawing one on the red clay after his last match.
After claiming title in 1997, Kuerten suffered an early round defeat at Roland Garros in 1998, to a young, unkown player, Marat Safin. He felt the pressure of becoming an ambassador to tennis in Brazil. Lari Passos, his coach and mentor played a very important role on his victories as well. Passos used to get very emotional every time Kuerten stepped onto Phillip Chartrier courts.
If his battles on the courts of Roland Garros brought Kuerten praises, he received the same level of respect on his personal life. His father, who was an amateur tennis player, passed away when he was 8 years of age. One of his Â brothers Guilherme, who had cerebral palsy, died in 2007. Â His brotherâ€™s disability deeply touched Kuerten all his life. Kuerten gave his bother all his tournament trophies as well as donating money to charities which aided the fight against cerebral palsy. Kuerten opened the Institute Guga Kuerten to help the disabled.
In a reversal of fortune, Kuerten played his last match in RG in 2008 and lost to Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 – the same scores he won his first title at Roland Garros back in 1997. No doubt â€œGugaâ€ has been one of the most loved tennis players, by players, media and fans all over the world. If we have to attach one word to â€œGugaâ€ â€“ greatness would fit him well.
With Brazil hosting both the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, Kuerten is lobbying for the ATP World Tour Finals to be held in Rio De Janeiro.
2012 has been a good year for Kuerten â€“ he has become a father and will be inducted in the International Tennis Hall of Fame on July 14 in Newport, Rhode Island.
Lucia Hoffman originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil, covered the Brazil Open will be part of Tennis Panorama News’ coverage team at the Sony Ericsson Open beginning March 20, 2012.