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March 11, 2003

Gustavo Kuerten


MODERATOR: Guga will face Roger Federer in the second round tomorrow. First question, please.

Q. With your success at the French Open, do you feel people don't give you credit on hard courts?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: No. I think it's fine. What you mean, the tournaments or the people?

Q. Do you feel you're a real contender for the title here?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: At this stage, not really. But I think in the other situation was here, you know, I had some chances, could be one of the guys to get through it. One year I played semifinal very early when I start to get my results on hard court. From there on, I didn't really get here in any of these years that went by with real good condition. I just came of playing these South America events on clay, so it's always my first tournament back on hard. Normally I play better the Miami event than here. But is also a question, you know, of scheduling, getting myself sometimes better prepared for one event than the other. I think if I get to the last rounds there, the weekend, semifinal, final, I always have a chance with the experience I have right now, the level of tennis I've been playing this year especially. I'm not a real contender for the title, but also someone that, you know, can surprise from outside.

Q. The surface is quite slow here. Do you feel it's slower than the other years and do you like it particularly?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Last year I wasn't here so I can't compare. Normally when we played in the other site, used to be a little bit faster than this. Playing in hard court, maybe it's a little bit heavier, got to use the power. Can't use your power and strongest during all the match. But if you serve well, you have some shots to make the winner, you can be successful, too. I think it's pretty fair. The tournament is really open. For me to face Federer now, it would be just a good motivation and like a big test for myself, too. He probably one of the best player that been playing for last weeks.

Q. How far do you think you are from your best tennis?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I think I'm playing well. I think the time I play my best tennis was so much better than I always expect. I think I cannot compare like that. When I played my best, I played sometimes five tournaments and win three or four, win so many match in a row, especially on clay court. That's just a moment I have to -- I can improve in small things still, but I'm playing pretty high level right now. I think I can compete against the best guys and I can maintain a better level from the beginning to the end of the tournament. That was the greatest difficulty thing that I had, you know, to work. Took me a long time to get it.

Q. Do you have an opinion on what Wayne Ferreira is trying to do with a possibly alternative Players Association?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: To tell you the truth, I didn't heard from him anything. I heard that something is going on. I think they want to have someone represent the players in the tour, is that right?

Q. Yes.

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I saw him talk to the other guys. So far I didn't had chance to talk with him. But I think the players, if they get together, it's a good sign of power. I think we should have like more unity from the players. So basically if he's looking for that, I think I will agree, no, to have the players having more, counting more. They have themself sometimes together, not when playing, but outside from make critical decisions, you know, as every sport needs to do.

Q. Today playing Goran, did you enjoy the fact that you're not on the Stadium Court, you're on a smaller court, and it seemed the fans were happy just to see some good tennis? Is that an environment that you enjoy?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Well, I think for us it's always nice, you know, to play. Doesn't matter if center court, Court 1 or Court 2. If you see there's no space out there, people are completely full, they stay to watch you play, it's always an extra motivation for yourself. Here I think it's one of the greatest place that the crowd support the players. You know, they come from the first match to the last and don't get away from the site. That's not, you know, usual to see in many other tournaments. That's probably the reason we playing down here, too. I think many guys enjoy this situation, the way it's been playing, you know, after they change for this site right here. Well, of course, when you playing the center, it's the big thing, it's the highest. But as I played today, the court for sure was more than one thousand people there. It's a pretty big court. Nothing to complain about it.

Q. Were you surprised that he overruled the service call when you were serving 2-1 to give you the game?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Yes. I was just ready to serve second serve. I think it's part of the fairness. He always show. I think we played each other a couple times and we always had this kind of feeling between each other. The result, it's going to be for one side, but I think the respect we have from each other probably is the reason that he just give this shot for me.

Q. Goran is known for his great serve, he won Wimbledon. What makes him so special as a person? Why is he so appealing? What do you think his best qualities as a person are?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Well, I think he's probably one of the guys who bring a lot of interest, you know, from the crowd. You saw today. He's just coming back from surgery, he's not in his best shape, but people was screaming all over, cheering for him, all this. I think because of his natural way of playing, you know. He doesn't mind if he has to talk to the umpire in Croatian or in English or talk loud or scream, throw his racquet. I think like he's showing his emotion pretty much, and that's how probably the people get more involved to him. And he's a nice guy, you know, a fair and great competitor. That's the main thing, then having the other characters on court, he can become someone different. But to get all there, first of all, I think it would be starting just the way he plays and the way he competes, that brings so much for the game.

Q. He said definitely no matter what, he wanted to go back to Wimbledon, even if he had to go in a wheelchair. Do you have that same feeling for Roland Garros?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Yes. You know, that's probably one of the reasons also that he's someone -- that the people care a lot. He's giving everything for the game, doesn't matter what situation, what will take, he going to be there. If he had to lose for anyone, he would be happy to get out there and play the game. So that's the great achievement, you know, for all of us, to watch someone like this. For me, I think just happened this last year, too. I wasn't in my best shape at French Open. I couldn't really play five-set match from the beginning to the end. But as you see some hope, some expectation, the way you can go there, have this feelings again, is just, you know, takes a question of you deciding if you be pleasure or not.

Q. If you were Pete Sampras, would you retire? What do you feel he's going to do?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: What a question. For us, Pete Sampras, man, I would be serving better, that's for sure, that's for sure (laughter). I don't know. Probably I don't see myself playing until 30, 31, 32, but at the same way, guy like him, you cannot expect anything, you know, criticize him to do or not doing something for the sports because so many achievements he got already - it's a lot of Slams. I probably give, I don't know, at least 15 years of his life just for the game, you know. So what comes next for him, maybe the end of last year, this year, could be something different that we all have to respect. That's my opinion. I've been around for not more than, I don't know, seven, eight years. I'm one of the guy who also enjoy more other things. I'm not a hundred percent just the game by himself. But I know how much effort you have to put on your normal life to be around. I'm sure anything he decide for me I will respect from the beginning to the end.

Q. The war looks likely in the Middle East. You guys travel a lot around the world. Does that concern you at all, safety concerns?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Yeah, I think last year, almost two years now, we all was very scared with the New York, September 11, they destroyed everything. I think right now at the same time we all more relieved. As the time goes by, we also a little bit scared, like with our ears open to see what's going to happen. But in the same way, it's kind of away from our head, so probably the best would be just trust the guys who are dealing more closely with this and just pray for don't get to the critical situation that will take the war. Hopefully they can have everything decide just talking or seeing what's better.

End of FastScripts….

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