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June 7, 2018

President Bernard Giudicelli

Gustavo Kuerten

Paris, France


PRESIDENT GIUDICELLI: Hello, everybody. Thank you for coming.

Mr. President, dear friend, you know that Gustavo Kuerten is always in the heart of Roland Garros public. It is in June 1997 that Guga's life changed, winning his first Mousquetaires trophy. He entered into the history of tennis and the Brazilian sport. He became since the chouchou of the public.

With a united family, he knew how to stay strong. After the loss of his father, Guga was eight, and accomplished the destiny wished by his father to put himself in the living position of tennis in the world, a symbol of the strong relationship that exists today between Brazil and France and our federations, my dear Rafael.

Gustavo Kuerten is an ambassador that exceeds Brazilian's borders. Nowadays, Gustavo is a player known all around the world, and it is here where his history was written.

In Brazil, and I saw that during the Olympics, Gustavo Kuerten is main person. Gustavo Kuerten is also the Semana Guga Kuerten, an event that gathers 2,000 players, youngsters, adults, beach tennis, wheelchair, during 11 days.

A network of 40 schools, franchised Escolinha Guga across Brazil, information for Brazilian coaches and players, Clinica Guga Kuerten, Guga tennis.

Gustavo Kuerten becomes the first, today, the first ambassador of Roland Garros and will participate to the success of the red clay and Roland Garros around the world.

We will hook, Guga, hand in hand to promote together tennis in Brazil, thanks to tournament and camps where Roland Garros and Gustavo Kuerten will be stamped.

And now, I'm very proud to give you the word, Guga, to say a few words.

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Merci beaucoup.

This is always some magical that keep going on between my life and Roland Garros. That's why we brought all the family over again, my brother, my wife, the sons are here.

PRESIDENT GIUDICELLI: And the French family.

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: And the family, yeah.

We feel at home being here. My life completely change, as you say, once I -- not only '97, '92 when I came in for the first time, 15 years old, and I look around. I decide that day that this, what I need to be fulfill, to realize my dreams.

And still today I think is new page of my dreams coming true. It's a great opportunity to keep inspiring people, involving them with hopes, especially in Brazil, as you said.

Now Roland Garros increase the relation with the confederation. We are connected to some clubs in Brazil. For us, as Brazilians, this is the World Cup, World Cup of tennis. The oxygen of tennis in Brazil is Roland Garros. So it will be a massive impact, and I hope to keep smiling. Is not hard (smiling).

The tournament is already what they need, and I will be connecting people, make them feel what's to be around, how important it is for us as a tennis player, as a human being, to be surrounding of this magical feelings that the tournament is.

So thanks a lot, and I hope I can still (indicating) a little bit to enjoy this opportunity again.


(Shaking hands and applause.)


PRESIDENT GIUDICELLI: So we will be pleased to take any questions or remark.

Are you impressed by Guga?

Q. What's going to be your role as Roland Garros Ambassador? What are you expected to do and what are you trying to bring to Brazil and to Roland Garros?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I believe it's a lot of -- sports, it's all about hopes, make people believe in their capacity. And it's beyond the lines of the court. You know, it's been more attached to the feelings, to memories and the passion. I think that's the way I learn how to play. And I understand life better on the venue, basically the tennis court, and especially on this magical event.

So I try to recommend people, if they like to play or watch, but for them to go a little bit deep and try to feel what's like.

I believe for the ones who come around and have a look, even for one single day, they much more close and they know what it is. But back home sometimes, it's much harder.

So I think it's wonderful. That's what we need on these days is be more connected, be more collective, passionate about it. That's the idea.

As I said, it's not hard, eh? French Open, all this already just so nice and so inspireful. It's just be part of a great venue that I can still make myself useful and part of tennis again.

Q. President, nice to see you. Nice to see you, Guga, again. President, do you have idea to bring other ambassadors to Roland Garros, just great players like Guga from the other countries to Roland Garros, to do the same thing?

Q. Big players from other countries to have other ambassadors.
PRESIDENT GIUDICELLI: Listen, let's start with the first. (Laughter.)

No. First, I want to add something, because Guga is not only a smile. He is a smile, but is a human person. I remember when he play the first final, and the French journalist asked to his coach, Larri Passos, and they said to him, Does Guga has got the pressure before the final?

And Larri Passos said, Listen, do you know what the pressure is? The pressure is some father in the favelas rising in the morning and asking himself what I'm going to give to my children. That's pressure.

And I kept this in mind, because tennis is a sport. And tennis, as every sport, can be played by anybody.

And I remember the discussion with Rafael about Dutra Silva. How many Dutra Silva are there in Brazil?

So I don't want them to travel at 12 and under and 14 and under. I want them to play tennis in Brazil.

Having an iconic player in mind, Guga is an icon. Like we have on the phone, it's an icon. He's iconic player.

So such a big country, such a big clay country of Brazil. More than 90% of courts are clay courts.

So we want to help Brazil promote players, warriors, to give to the nations and to the broadcaster the good image of the game.

Guga, for me, is the best ambassador to that. It's not a matter of business. The business came after that. We want to inspire the world of tennis playing on clay with the other slams. Each of us are on this surface: Wimbledon is grass, the Australian and U.S. is hard court, but we want to inspire the world.

We want to make real network, and that the reason why my staff, we promoted a Masters Series, we promoted a junior series, just to play tennis.

But the main information that you have to know is with the ITF, we are promoting for each players, young, old, wheelchair. We are promoting worldwide ranking system.

That means that when the 12-and-under players or 14-and-under players will get his own ranking in Brazil, he will get the comparison with the European ranking, U.S. ranking, et cetera.

And one day the CBT can say, listen, you have this level. We can bring you to Europe and to compete with Europeans to see really if you are able to do that.

And I know when I saw Dutra Silva in Challengers, I knew that this guy, if he was raised with another system, maybe today he's strictly in the main draw, but to get by the quallies.

So with our Minas Tenis Clube and with other club, we want to get the feel, the courts, like, the place to play. The courts in Roland Garros maybe is wider, but it's still a court. It is the same court in Minas Tenis Clube.

But around the court, we want to get some young players inspired by Guga.

Q. Guga, I would ask you about this year's tournament, about a player who is Marco Cecchinato. He has a draw like you maybe in 1997. What do you say about him?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Nicer hair, him. (Laughter.)

He is, as you said, feeling, for sure, as a new player, best tennis ever. He find out, perhaps he never discover before, he was able to do such amazing shots. I watch him playing the backhand down the line, and it's curious. One-hand backhand, that's very rare on these days.

So it's kind of the same run. The advantage, of course, is you play nothing to lose. You know, you have a lot in favor.

And the lack of experience and knowledge of being on these last rounds, that's always the risk. But I think he's very enthusiastic. He's not satisfied, as we could watch in the last game by playing Djokovic in the quarterfinal, he want to go farther, and that's what he did.

Every round will be a tougher challenge. In order to go all the way, you need to pass over the champions one after the other. And this will be the challenge he will face.

Lucky me that I did not have Nadal on that time in '97. He still need to handle Thiem, perhaps Nadal or Schwartzman, and the other guys, Del Potro and Cilic.

But it's the way it is. I think it's already the two weeks of his life, and it can go to the end. It happened to me. It's not exclusive. It can be done for other people.

But this was the best and the most amazing act on my career. Even being No. 1 was higher, of course, but wasn't so hard. Winning here, being 70, 67 in the world, was much more difficult than after becoming No. 1.

Q. Do you think you were very great, first of all, because you didn't think about your opponent? You just play yourself...
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I thought you said I didn't think at all. It was like this (laughing).

Q. But, you know, sometimes in sports is better. But in your case you put just yourself on court, your soul, your tennis, and you don't think about your opponent. Because you beat very, very strong opponent without the experience, as you say. Do you think that was the main reason? Don't think about the opponent?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I believe you have to consider you play your game. You try to do the best you can. But at the end, you need to face the other guys.

So you have to consider, and especially against Kafelnikov, I was around 36 hours, 24 hours, since the match ends against Medvedev to the one day waiting, I couldn't convince myself that I was able to beat him. You know, so I was thinking about him, of course.

You need to do that, because the only chance I had, it's to play very smart and much better than I always did and perhaps him need to be a little bit worse. So I need the tactics perfect to do from the beginning to the end.

This, it happened to me, I think. At certain stage, I was able only to think about myself. On this game, especially on the fourth set when he start to get a little bit tired, I said, Okay, let's do it. I feel I can handle the situation.

But it's always a little bit anxious, not to know what's gonna happen. I went out of the court, what's the center court is all about? I didn't know. I went in, Oh, okay, I'm here.

And then Kafelnikov after. It's strange. It's the first time of my life. I don't know if Cecchinato ever play in the center already? No? You see, in the semifinals, so it's a new experience.

If the player has the capacity of dealing with this and able to take advantage of these things and also enthusiastic situation, will be better. But normally, once you have to face the first experience in your life, it's unsureness. And to sports can be crucial.

The good thing on tennis, you have five hours to play, perhaps three hours, or at least one hour to feel yourself comfortable. But at the end of the day, if you don't start really strong and if you don't get the feeling fast, sometimes it's too late.

So that's the hardest it is to win a French Open, being outsider.


GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Roland Garros. I'm sorry. You see? I need to already two years to improve now as ambassador. Already, Larri get me going. (Laughter.)

Roland Garros, it's like this. You need to be the best of the world for 14 days. Is not only play one game, beating the No. 1 in the world. Is not enough. You need to be the best player. So only survives the guys that are really able to do that.

That's why you see past champions, all of them are No. 1 in the world. 13 or 15 years back, all the best champions are No. 1 in the world. It's really amazing effort.

That's what I said, I'm sure that '97 was the hardest things for me to do on tennis. The most impossible thing for me to do was on this tournament. I didn't have the capacity. Feels like I didn't have this potential yet. And suddenly it happened.

Losing 3-0 to Muster in the fifth set, I was able to turn around. 4-0 and Love-40 against Medvedev in the fifth set, again, I was able to win. In the fifth beating Kafelnikov, and in the end against Bruguera, twice champion, two times already and he knows what to do daily, in that game, I think because of my route through the final, I was sure of myself.

Then I think a lot of myself and said, Okay, I pass over this and that, so I'm ready.

As Bernard said, it comes all over, from my father, give him the racquet. So I'm here, I'm strong, I'm unbeatable. At the end, I felt like that.

Normally it happens after you play a semifinal, then you are No. 2, No. 3 in the world, certainly you have the potential and have the sureness about it. For me, the experience in 14 days was enough to make myself 100% convinced.

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