Re: Guga and Roland Garros, born for each other
“Not in my sweetest dreams I ever thought of getting to the semis.”
Guga after winning the match.
“Man, this russian plays too good! It’s good I did play better.”
Gustavo Kuerten, astonished by Kafelnikov’s play.
‘AU REVOIR’, KAFELNIKOV
This time, one match point was enough. Serving on 5-4 on the 5th and last set, Gustavo Kuerten had his serve threatened (30/40), but he reverted the situation with two excelent serves and grabbed his first chance to conquer the win that is already part of the brazilian tennis history.
Defeating the russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov, reigning champion of the tournament and world number 3, Guga is the first Brazilian to go as far as the semifinals of the parisien Grand Slam. On Friday, he plays one of the semifinals against Filip Dewulf (the belgian who defeated Fernando Meligeni in the second round).
- Man, if, before the tournament, someone had told me I would be in the semis, I would have said “you are crazy”. Now I have to say that I am crazy myself.
Irreverent, always in a good mood and playing around, Gustavo Kuerten keeps on captivating Paris on and off court. Roland Garros’ main stadium – absolutely packed – had all its crowd standing and clapping Guga’s newest spectacular win, conquered in the match which is considered by the specialists as the best in tennis this year.
- Man, this russian plays too good! It’s good that I played even better” said Guga.
It was a devastating start for the Brazilian. And it was a fight of giants, to last 5 sets and two and a half hours.
Kafelnikov started serving and, for massive perplexion, being broken: the young Brazilian didn’t respect the fame nor the title of the russian. One – zero Guga, with a play that was barely humiliating. Known by the precision of his dropshots, Kafelnikov saw Guga get to his short sliced ball easily. Even worse, the come back was in the form of a new dropshot, in the opposite angle, to win the point. The terraces gone wild.
Kuerten looked indeed “enchanted”. Despite the resistance from the champion, who got back to 40-all, the Brazilian closed the game with a perfect backhand crosscourt, after a long rally: 2-0.
Kafelnikov held his serve following, but Gustavo kept his strongly (3-1), imposing his opponent to another humiliating (and hell-spawn) dropshot.
Fifth and sixth games were fast and easy for the servers. The problems came back for the russian when he was serving on 2-4 and Guga, ruling all the long rallies, broke him again to lead 5-2.
With the crowd shouting “Guga, Guga”, between the points, the set was over with another outstanting play from the Brazilian, as he won the point with a backhand down the line winner.
Kafelnikov came back into the second set seeking for revenge. And, although they kept on serve untill 2-2, it was already noticeable that the russian’s game had gone up some notches. Resulting of that, Guga was broken in the sixth game, and Kafelnikov went up 4-2, a comfortable lead grown bigger as he served and held to 5-2.
For the first time in the match, the russian breathed in relief. A prove that he didn’t know Gustavo Kuerten. Keeping the focus, he served to trail 3-5 and, in a game of hell-made plays (with long and enthusiastic rallies), he broke Kafelnikov back, 4-5. He then proceeded to hold his serve at love, and it was 5 a piece.
The crowd driven crazy, Kafelnikov driven crazy as well. Guga got to a 15/40 on the russian’s serve:
- That was the first big mental moment of the match. Had I broken him there, I would probably have won in straight sets – Guga would comment later.
The problem was that on the other side of the net stood a tremendous champion. And Kafelnikov played as one, serving with precision, approaching the net when necessary, and destroying the disatvantage until he had the game to lead 6/5. And the rain starting pooring slowly over Roland Garros.
Full of confidence, Kafelnikov attacked Guga’s served as a lion. And he got what he wanted: the break and the second set win. It was all square.
On the third set, the situation seemed to be the same. The russian opened a 3/1 advantage breaking Guga’s serve in the fourth game and soon had the set on a 6/2 with a new break in the eighth game of the series. Two sets to one for the champion:
- This was the second big mental moment of the match – Kuerten would explain – For the first time in the tournament I was down (2-1 in sets). I had to focus a lot to start the 4th set strong.
And did he! Kafelnikov had hardly left his chair it was already 15/40 on his serve (another drop over drop play by Guga). Following, Guga would hold to start a sequence of 4 consecutive games won. After that, Kafelnikov obviously tanked the set to save energy for the final set: result was an astounting bagel for Guga.
- I fought as hard as I could until 0/4. After that, it was obvious we were going to a 5th, and I chose to save energy. Kuerten was perfect by then – were the words of the russian after the match.
The H Hour had finally come. And Guga shined once more, breaking Kafelnikov in the first game, even though the russian served like the devil, including two aces (one to save a break point). One love Kuerten.
Hurting with aces, hurt with aces. And Guga payed those two back with two of his own, holding his serve to lead 2/0.
From this moment on, it was painfully nervous. Both the players were playing out of this world – points were decided in long, intense and thrilling rallies – and serves were held (the russian would always have more trouble, though, as Guga had 4 break point in the 3rd game and two more in the 5th).
Finally we got to 5/4 Guga, when he serves for the match. He loses the first point (0/15), but hits an ace right after (15/15). Another point from the serve (30/15), followed by an abnormal passing shot from Kafelnikov (30/30). An error on Guga’s backhand (30/40) left the Brazilian crowd on the edge of their seats and the russian had a breakpoint. Another big serve from Guga brings us back to deuce, and another one puts him on advantage. It’s the match point.Serve, and point. The champion is fallen. Kuerten is on to the semifinals. The crowd on center court stand on their feet to applaud the new sensation of tennis. Allez, Guga!
wooden jesus, can i be saved? i spent all my money on a future grave.. ill cut you in on 20% of my future sins..
'97 ROLAND GARROS, '98 Stuttgart, '98 Mallorca, '99 MONTE CARLO, '99 ROMA, '00 Santiago, '00 HAMBURG, '00 ROLAND GARROS, '00 Indianapolis, '00 MASTERS CUP LISBOA, '01 Buenos Aires, '01 Acapulco, '01 MONTE CARLO, '01 ROLAND GARROS, '01 Stuttgart, '01 CINCINNATI, '02 Costa do Sauipe, '03 Auckland, '03 St. Petersburg, '04 Costa do Sauipe.