Brazilian tennis player
Gustavo Kuerten took the tennis world by storm in 1997 when the virtually unknown player won the French Open championship, the clay court Grand Slam event. Kuerten has won the championship three times. He has also won a total of sixteen singles titles and eight doubles titles since turning professional in 1995. Kuerten reached the number one ranking in the world by the end of 2000 and held that position for much of 2001. Aside from being a great clay court player, Kuerten is known as being a friendly, laid back, and humble person.
Coached by Surrogate Father
Gustavo Kuerten, popularly known as "Guga," was born on September 10, 1976 in Florianopolis, Brazil. Florianopolis is a city of 270,000 people on the island of Santa Catarina off of the Brazilian coast. He is the second of three sons born to Aldo Amadeu and Alice Kuerten. His father owned an aluminum siding business and his mother was a social worker. Both parents enjoyed
playing tennis and encouraged their sons to do the same. Aldo Kuerten was also an avid basketball player.
Aldo Kuerten taught his young sons to play tennis. Guga started playing when he was only six years old. Two years later his father tried to get former Brazilian tennis player Larri Passos to coach his son. According to John Gustafson of the Chicago Sun-Times, Passos told Kuerten, "One day, but not now. He's too young. He has to enjoy his life, play football and other sports." Just one year later, when Guga was nine years old, his father was umpiring a juniors tennis match and died suddenly of a heart-attack at only forty-one years old. The eldest son, Rafael, had to quit playing tennis so that he could help support the family.
In 1989 when Guga was thirteen, Passos kept his promise to Aldo Kuerten and began to coach his son. He liked Guga's carefree spirit, but he helped him improve his concentration on the court. He also made him change his two-handed backhand to a smoother onehanded shot. Passos also frequently traveled to Europe with Kuerten to expose him to international competition. Passos became a surrogate father to Kuerten and he is credited not only with Kuerten's success as a tennis player, but also with his good-natured disposition and healthy perspective on life.
Clay Court Champion
Kuerten turned professional in 1995 when he was nineteen. Within a year he broke into the top 100 rankings of male tennis players worldwide and he became the number one player in Brazil. In 1996 he won his first doubles title with Fernando Meligeni at the Tour de Santiago. Only one year later Kuerten won his first singles title, which also happened to be a Grand Slam championship. Kuerten won the French Open championship at Roland Garros by defeating two-time champion Sergi Bruguera. This was quite a feat since Kuerten was virtually unknown on the tennis scene and ranked only number sixty-six in the world before the tournament. This victory moved Kuerten to number fourteen in the world rankings and he became an overnight star in his home country.
Kuerten won two more clay court singles titles in 1998 at Stuttgart and Mallorca. However, he was unable to successfully defend his French Open title. In fact, Kuerten did not make it past the second round of any of the four Grand Slam tournaments that year and his ranking fell to number twenty-three. In 1999 Kuerten achieved more consistency in his play. He won two more singles titles at Monte Carlo and Rome. He also reached the quarter finals of three Grand Slam tournaments, including Wimbledon, which is his least favorite surface.
Kuerten continued his success in 2000. Although he did not do well at three of the Grand Slam events that year, he did manage to repeat his French Open victory, defeating Yevgeny Kafelnifov, Juan Carlos Ferrero, and Magnus Norman to reach his second Grand Slam title. He also won singles titles at Santiago, Hamburg, Indianapolis, and the Master's Cup in Lisbon. In his victory at Lisbon, Kuerten defeated such top players as the number one tennis player at that time Pete Sampras , as well as Andre Agassi , Yevgeny Kafelnikov, and Magnus Norman. He was the only player that decade to beat both Sampras and Agassi back-to-back. He finished the year with the number one ranking, becoming the first South American to hold this position.
|1976||Born September 10 in Florianopolis, Brazil|
|1982||Begins playing tennis with father|
|1984||Larri Passos refuses to coach him because he is too young|
|1985||Father dies of a heart attack at age 41|
|1989||Larri Passos becomes his coach|
|1996||Wins first doubles title with Fernando Meligeni|
|1997||Wins first Grand Slam tournament at Roland Garros|
|2000||Wins second Grand Slam tournament at Roland Garros|
|2000||Wins Masters Cup|
|2000||Ends season ranked number one in the world|
|2000||Founds Institute Guga Kuerten to help the handicapped|
|2001||Wins third Grand Slam tournament at Roland Garros|
|2002||Undergoes hip surgery|
In 2001 Kuerten dominated the clay court season, winning five of seven clay court titles. He repeated his victory at the French Open, capturing his third Grand Slam title. His other singles titles were won at Cincinnati, Stuttgart, Monte Carlo, Acapulco, and Buenos Aires. His win in Cincinnati was his first hard court title. Kuerten also reached the finals of the U.S. Open that year. Kuerten spent most of the year ranked the number one male tennis player in the world, although he slipped to number two by the end of the year. "I think I was the happiest number one player in the history of tennis and I really enjoyed the year," Kuerten explained on his official Web site.
"Stayed the Same Person"
Kuerten missed most of the 2002 tennis season because he was recovering from hip surgery. He is expected to return to the circuit once he is physically able to play a regular schedule. For Kuerten to return to the number one position in the world tennis rankings, he will probably have to become a more versatile player and win more tournaments on surfaces other than clay. "For me [that] would be the next stage for my career, maybe [to] win a [grand] slam on another surface. I think each year I'm getting closer," Kuerten told John Barrett of the London Financial Times in November of 2001.
Regardless of whether Kuerten wins another Grand Slam, he is already a hero in Brazil. Kuerten is now the most famous athlete in Brazil, surpassing soccer star Pele . Despite his success, Kuerten remains very humble and grounded. When he is home, he enjoys the same friends and activities that he did before he was famous. Surfing is his favorite pastime. "My life has changed, but I've stayed the same person," Kuerten told the Hindu newspaper in March of 2001. "I have the same friends, the same people working with me, my family by my side all the time. I have a simple life." Kuerten is very close to his family. His older brother, Rafael, works as his manager. Kuerten also sends all of his trophies to his younger brother, Guilherme, who has cerebral palsy. Throughout his career Kuerten has donated a portion of his earnings to the Parents and Friends of the Handicapped Association. In 2000 he founded the Institute Guga Kuerten to raise awareness and money for the handicapped and his mother serves as the institute's director.
Awards and Accomplishments
|1996||Doubles title at Santiago with Fernando Meligeni|
|1997||Doubles title at Estoril with Fernando Meligeni|
|1997||Doubles title at Bologna with Fernando Meligeni|
|1997||Doubles title at Stuttgart with Fernando Meligeni|
|1997||Finished year ranked number 14 in the world|
|1997, 2000-01||French Open singles title|
|1997, 2000-01||Named Brazil's Sportsman of the Year|
|1998||Doubles title at Gestaad with Fernando Meligeni|
|1998||Singles title at Mallorca|
|1998, 2001||Singles title at Stuttgart|
|1999||Doubles title at Adelaide with Nicolas Lapentti|
|1999||Singles title at Rome|
|1999, 2001||Singles title at Monte Carlo|
|2000||Doubles title at Santiago with Antonio Prieto|
|2000||Singles title at Santiago|
|2000||Singles title at Hamburg|
|2000||Singles title at Indianapolis|
|2000||Masters Cup singles title at Lisbon|
|2000||Named Association of Tennis Players Player of the Year|
|2000||Finished year ranked number one in the world|
|2001||Doubles title at Acapulco with Donald Johnson|
|2001||Singles title at Buenos Aires|
|2001||Singles title at Acapulco|
|2001||Singles title at Cincinnati|
|2001||Finished year ranked number two in the world|
Address: ATP Tour International Headquarters, 201 ATP Tour Boulevard, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL 32082.
Barrett, John. "Surfing or the Net for World Number One." Financial Times (London, England) (November 10, 2001): 22.
Bellos, Alex. "Tennis: Brazil Goes Gaga Over Guga." The Guardian (London, England) (January 13, 2001): 12.
"Getting to Know Gustavo Kuerten." Hindu (March 10, 2001).
Gustafson, John. "Guga!" Chicago Sun-Times (August 27, 2000): 132.
"Gustavo Kuerten Enters Final." Hindu (June 9, 2001).
Margolis, Mac. "Going Gaga Over Guga." Newsweek (June 26, 2000): 33.
Price, S.L. "French Farce." Sports Illustrated (June 16, 1997): 50-53.
ATP Tennis Players Profiles - Gustavo Kuerten. http://www.cliffrichardtennis.org/player_profiles/gustavo_kuerten.html (January 24, 2003).
Biography Resource Center Online. http://www.infotrac.com (January 24, 2003).
CNNSI.com - Tennis - Gustavo Kuerten 2001 Win-Loss Record. http://sportsillustrated.conn.com/tennis/news/2001/kuerten01 (January 24, 2003).
ESPN.com: Gustavo Kuerten. http://espn.go/com/tennis/s/atp/profiles/kuerten.html (January 24, 2003).
Guga. http://www.guga.com.br/en/01_site_root/atleta_perfil.htm (January 24, 2003).
Sketch by Janet P. Stamatel