This article is in Auckland's official site!
Day of Worship
Sunday's final of the Heineken Open is a battle between two popular players, but one in particular is almost a god to his legion of travelling fans.
Fourth seed Gustavo Kuerten of Brazil has brought something special to this tournament, win or lose. Look up into the Yock stand and you'll see exactly
what - a bright yellow army of zealots, who worship the ground he walks on.
So perhaps it is appropriate that the final has been rescheduled for a Sunday.
He accepts that they rise and fall on his play, and is almost embarrassed that he cannot always deliver for them. "When I am not playing very well, it is sometimes not easy to stay focused - they cheer, you know, but I'm not feeling that good," Kuerten explains.
"Other times, they push me, lift me, I take energy from them. When I am playing well, I really feel good that they make so much noise."
When asked about Kuerten, his singles final opponent Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia was full of respect. "He is a great player. I have to concentrate
on the times I beat him - Tokyo, once in Davis Cup in Brazil... and try to be as relaxed as possible."
We looked in the ATP handbook, and found that he was being modest. Those two meetings in Brazil and Japan were the only times the two have met!
About his form in 2003, compared to when he won the Heineken Open in 2001, Hrbaty offered, "You don't compare a tournament that you won with another tournament until you've won it. I think this year's field is stronger.
"I love coming to Auckland... Sydney, the part where the tournament is played, it's all concrete. Not like here, with the parks and trees. People are friendly here, too, it feels good, the atmosphere and everything. Good results here are important, too - you always like coming back somewhere
you've done well."
Kuerten said about Hrbaty that "I have never beaten him, but we never met in a final before. Finals are very different."