Era uma manha de domingo 1997, à tarde a seleção brasileira jogaria contra a italiana na final de um torneio sem expressão, mas o Brasil acordou cedo naquela manhã preguiçosa para ver um tal “manezinho” com pinta de surfista que aos poucos foi surpreendendo até chegar a final do torneio de Roland Garros.
Um tal Kuerten como diziam os gringos da televisão, para nos Guga porque assim soa mais brasileiro.
Era uma manha fria de maio e eu fui apresentado àquele ser cabeludo, com roupa chamativa que adentrava a quadra principal como quem vai para aqueles joguinhos dominicais com amigos seguido por um churrasco com cerveja. Guga sorria e ao sorrir ganhou o Brasil, um pais que poucos anos antes aprendera a olhar não só para o futebol, mas também para o vôlei agora começava a gostar também de tênis, esporte esse até então privado a uma pequena e esnobe elite se via popularizar na simplicidade daquele ser que entrava em quadra.
Duas ou três horas depois o pais inteiro vibrava com aquele homem que conseguira o feito inédito de levar o verde-amarelo ao topo de um Grand Slam e assim nasceu Gustavo Kuerten, o Guga, para o Brasil e o Mundo.
Durante esses 11 anos conhecemos e aprendemos a admirar não só o tenista, esportista, mas um homem de estrema simpatia e boa índole que cuida da família e de um irmão especial (falecido poucos anos atrás), que se importa com as crianças e o social e que mesmo quando estava no topo jamais perdeu a simplicidade e a humildade. O Brasil sofreu com ele e torceu pela sua recuperação quando da grave contusão no quadril que culminou por aposentar-lo antes do tempo.
Neste domingo dia 25/05, Guga, aos 31 anos, se retirou do cenário profissional do tênis no mesmo local onde nasceu para o mundo do esporte, ou seja, na quadra central de Roland Garros, aplaudido de pé por todos aqueles que estavam presentes encerrou a carreira da mesma forma que começou… sorrindo. Uma despedida digna e merecida para alguém que por 43 semanas liderou o ranking mundial e somou 20 títulos ao todo dentre eles 3 vezes Roland Garros e 1 Master Cup.
Infelizmente algumas pessoas envelhecem e tudo chega ao fim, Guga agora ascende a um nível maior, vira ídolo, referencia exemplo, herói….. de um pais que pouco olha para o esporte mas que tem nele a sua maior fonte de orgulho e referencia social. Guga vai para o altar onde figuram monstros como Pele, Senna, Tele Santana, Maria Ester Bueno e tantos outros….
Uma vez ouvi de um jornalista que triste era o país que não possuía heróis para se espelhar eu agora digo que feliz é o Brasil que busca no esporte os seus heróis e os encontra.
Guga bids a champion’s goodbye
Sunday, May 25, 2008
By Matthew Cronin
Kuerten certainly had his ups-and-downs during his prime, but at Roland Garros, he was a player apart. When asked what tennis meant to him, Guga went deep. “I guess big knowledge,” he said. “All these years I’ve been learning a lot, and especially these last three or four years that I have to deal with difficult situations. So I had to grow as a person, too. I guess my world started to get larger because of tennis and the success I had. My life just became something much larger than normal people’s. I think I was able to adapt myself pretty well. I was happy being successful, so basically tennis, it was running into my veins, into my blood. I love to be out there and playing. For me, this tournament especially was probably the motivation for myself, probably my heart that keeps the blood flowing.”
In 2001, Kuerten came back from the jaws of defeat when he saved a match point against the ambitious qualifier Michael Russell. Then Kafelnikov predicted he would push him, but the Russian went down 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4. “It’s difficult playing from behind against Gustavo,” said a dejected Kafelnikov. “You give him freedom, he’s like Picasso….Every time I run into Kuerten, it seems like that hurdle is unmakeable.”
Before his masterpiece final round defeat of Spaniard Alex Corretja, Guga said that if he won, he would not just buy Russell of poster of Vincent van Gogh’s “Night Stars” – he would approach the Louvre for the painting itself. “I think Russell deserves a real Van Gogh from me as a present,” Kuerten said with a twinkle in his eye.
At the time, that crown meant that Guga joined legends Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl and Mats Wilander (Hall of Famers all) as the only players to win three singles French titles in the Open era. He danced with Brazilian fans after the win.
Until three-time champion Rafael Nadal came along, it seemed that no player had a better understanding of the confines at Avenue Gordon Bennett than the Kuerten. “When I’m playing my best, I know I can beat these guys. When I’m feeling the ball real well, it’s really tough for the guy to come up with the right shots.”
Sadly, Kuerten never raised the trophy again as he was hit by one significant injury after another, most specifically to his hip, for which he underwent surgery twice, His many comeback attempts were mostly aborted and this year, he announced that 2008 Roland Garros would be his last Grand Slam appearance. Even though it might have been a more reasonable idea for him to retire a couple of years ago, he truly loved his sport. “It’s what I like,” he said. “It’s enthusiasm. It’s danger. It’s the nerves of out there. It’s everything I want it to be when I am on court.”
Kuerten tried as hard as he could against Mathieu, but his best is no longer good enough to score wins. His hip prevents him from running hard to his right and if it were not for an outstanding serving day and some memorable backhands, he would have been out of the match more quickly as his forehand let him down time and time again.
But there was still a bit of the old magic for fans to get a taste of, like when he hit a forehand passing shot out of nowhere when facing his first match point. But on Mathieu’s second match point, a Kuerten drop shot fell sadly into the net. Guga beamed to the adoring crowd for a few moments, but then sat down a cried hard.
He lit up again when French Tennis Federation president Christian Bimes presented with a special gift, the multiple layers of the “Court Central” encased in glass.
“Basically I’m lucky,” said Kuerten. “One stage of my career was very successful, and I was able to get all the goals that I could. Then the second part was really tough. But in the same way, for me it was important to live these years, to grow as a person, to understand what it is to have other things to deal with. There’s no regrets at all.” Au revoir Guga…