March 25, 2012
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
So it's such an honor to have you in the Hall of Fame. What can you tell us about that?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: First, that soon was kind of surprise for me. I just finish playing three, almost four years ago. The time flies, eh? Seems like it was yesterday.
But once I got to know, it was like a big emotion to over the years, getting deep in good times, hard times I had on my way through.
A great influence from my father that I had in the beginning, even knowing that it was for a short term of my life. I think is more enjoyable right now, because I can understand better my career and the impact that I could bring to tennis.
So it was pretty happy. Became my special, very special years since I just got my first baby and being accepted to the Hall of Fame. So could not be better.
When you do look back, is there one moment that you think tells the whole story of your career? Is there one special moment, do you imagine, that you can reflect on?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I think the immediate reflection is hard to understand how this really happen.
If I start to look at the facts, it's basically 100 or 1000 of you can call coincidence or lucky or fact that happen to be able to get this far.
Perhaps of course the crucial one, the main one was to lose my father in the tennis court. This could be a drama for me to just get out of any closet and then tennis.
So since I have this experience very early, I think that what we did well was I learned from that time being able to take advantage even on hard situations.
So doesn't matter. I remember around 17, one week before getting tests in Brazil, we have to do tests to be able to go to university my mother is still waiting for me to go to university (Laughter.)
I have to undercover her, don't let her know that I would not doing the test, you know. Then I call her four days before. I call her from Argentina, No, mom. Mom, I am not coming back. Forget. She want me to be a doctor until 17 years old.
So it just kind of 100 or 1000 situations like this, and that's why it feels great flavor. I pass over I believe most situations, but a player can pass I never get a step forward without passing all these stages.
Only once I got when I won the French Open on '97 that I really like overpass a couple of stage. But until that time I played all the juniors, I played all the satellites, I played even team tennis. I did everything in my career.
So it brings you a really special feeling once you have all these experience on your back.
When you look at the top three players today, are you happy you stopped playing or do you wish you were playing so you could try that?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: A little bit of both (laughter.)
I'm happy mostly because I truly believe that these guys that I considered some genius, they are better than the best to have. They are one of the best ever.
Perhaps Djokovic still a little bit more have time for us to be sure of this. But Rafa and Roger, they are completely one of the best five players all times.
I think I contribute on this way. Even knowing that they are like kind of super heros, they are very they have the access for the people. They are around. You can feel them more close to a human being.
If you go outside, perhaps they can believe they can play the same as them even though it's impossible. I think that was a big contribution that I did to bring the tennis a little bit more close to humanity, you know, more easy to understand than all classes around.
In Brazil, for me it's a great pleasure for me when I see guys sometimes having hard time to write or to count, and they know 15 30, 30 All, break point. (Laughter.)
It's hard to understand how it's possible, but right now I can go this deep and feel this pleasure of contribution to tennis.
So that's why these guys I think would be great for me. Would be amazing time to be connected with them and be related of these special moments to tennis.
I believe on this, it's like a golden era again. We can compare perhaps for another time it happens on Connors, McEnroe, Borg.
But it's really a circumstance that tennis, it's becoming more popular every year. I believe much more on this way. We are not only talking about the class A or rich guys. We are talking about regular people that seen on them an inspiration and a person that it's more touchable.
You obviously are remembered for your Roland Garros. Do you feel yourself you made another step by winning the ATP finals in Lisbon, not on clay, and if you hadn't been injured you would have been able to go on and play at that level on hard surfaces, as well?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Yeah. This was perhaps the last step through I did. Either in 2001 I still went a little bit farther than that, but I was a little far away from my best, that's for sure.
Once I got to that stage, I was playing I had myself comfortable to play in different surface. The tour was going in a way that would give me advantage, you know, to bring the game a little bit slower, with surface more equal.
And to have a good example, I played first time on and this was one year before against Pete. On Hannover I lost 6 1, 6 2, and one year later I could beat him. One of my best matches ever.
So I can only in my imagination but I can see very easily that my game would have developed a lot, even on clay, and I'm sure in different surface.
For me, will always be a pity that I didn't have these opportunities the same way as I thought at the beginning. Was too much farther than I can still right now can believe it.
So it's a conflict there, but I prefer to look on the positive way.
Five years ago in this tournament you played doubles with Kei Nishikori, and back then he was 17 years old and his ranking was around 600. Now he is 16 in the world. What do you remember from that doubles match? Any thoughts on his achievement?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I could see he would be at least top 50, top 30 player on that time. He played already in a good level. He's very talent, as he's showing right now. Just depending of how far he want to go. I think he can go still a little bit more. He will have to work hard, develop a lot.
But as I saw before, he was very focused, good discipline to play, understanding the game.
So it's not a surprise for me that he breakthrough to that far.
You played with Luxilon string. What do you think it did for you and for the game?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Three French Open, one Masters Cup (smiling). It gave me a lot, so much. I believe I was the first to have on this gray one. Albert Costa start with the purple. It's a little bit more thick.
I played the thinner one on this gray. I remember little farther on, 1999 or 2000, that Agassi was complaining. If he could not adapt himself to play Luxilon, he would ask ATP to forbid this string because he could feel it not so good, but sometimes it doesn't fits to your game.
So this was a funny story about it, but I think it bring the it brought the game to a different level. That's for sure.
Simple question: Why do you love playing tennis?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Why do I love playing tennis? Because the relation, I think love you have maintaining. It's not you just love and it is like this.
Every day you have like a flower. You have to go there, put some water, have to appreciate it, what's around it. I start to understand the game and loving the competition around and being by myself at the court, traveling.
The only hard thing for me on tennis, it's massive competition as everybody is trying to reduce now. We are playing too much for too long all the time. This is hard, especially for a Brazilian who has to be out of the continent for 80% of the year.
But even the relation with the crowd, how to appear in the central court with thousand, thousand of people, every single thing I was able to adapt myself. I just like and then love, and it's maintaining like this.
Hopefully it can continue. I don't play more than three, four matches a year because my physical condition, but still once I'm in the tennis courts, always great feels.
So you start talking about your father, and he was a great influence for you. And you have, you know, both of your brothers in the beginning. You had your coach, Larri Passos. How much was all this important for you to have all that support? What's the role in your career?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: It was crucial. I have these typical Brazilian culture and customs. I'm very related to our way of living, and it's very social. I had to create a formula to bring more people to the court when I was playing.
So I had the feeling even being by myself at the tennis court I have the feeling of the support of everybody, of being fulfilled with many different persons.
And these ones that you just spoke are the ones more important to my life, on the court and outside of the court. So this I couldn't never manage to get through without them.
That's why even at the beginning I was very clear on a way of distribute my achievements, my titles, to the people surround me.
Because as a Brazilian, being individual and just to feel the flavor by yourself, that's no fun at all.