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August 29, 2001

Gustavo Kuerten


MODERATOR: Questions for Gustavo.

Q. Already better than last year?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Yes (laughter). I'm playing better than last year.

Q. How are you feeling?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I'm feel okay, especially the beginning of the match, hitting the ball well. I had a tough game in the third set that decide the set. He hit the line four shots in a row. It was I think already a good test for me. I didn't fail too much this set, I just stay at the same level, had some chance and couldn't get it. I think, like I said, a good test. I was frustrated sometimes not getting the points that I wanted. But getting the match - that was the important thing. Like you said, I was a little bit extra nervous for losing at the beginning round last year. So I come to the court a little bit afraid. But right now I think it's much more relieve.

Q. There's always a lot of talk about clay court players, the seedings controversy at Wimbledon, whether clay court players, hard court games, how they match up. Do you feel you need to win a Slam on a surface other than clay so people will say, "He's a complete player," or is it not an issue for you?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: For me I would like to win more Slams if I could. I know I have more chance on French than any other place because I did already a couple times, and I know how to do it already. I think each year I'm getting close. I see like myself in better conditions, winning more match, more tournaments, too. But as far as you go in a Slam, it's always one target. At the same time people can say you're not as good as the guys that win all the time. You also have this challenge for yourself to see if you can get there. For me would be maybe the next stage I think for my career, maybe win a Slam in other surface.

Q. Reading Time, they were --?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I have no contact lens. I can't see (laughter).

Q. As the No. 1 men's seed, they were basically putting down the men's game, saying it's full of nondescript European players. Who wants to memorize names of players like Gustavo Kuerten? Do you feel like you're a lightning rod for this kind of hostility? Have you heard things like this - the men's game is suffering, you have a hard name to pronounce, don't have the personality of some of the other American players? Does that bother you?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: If you go to Brazil, I'd say they don't put Venus Williams on the front page, they put me. If you have the tournaments in Brazil, the tennis would be unbelievable. You always need the home crowd to support the sports. Five years ago, nobody watched tennis in Brazil. Right now, maybe is the more excited sports to follow. I think as far as you have here, Sampras, Agassi, Roddick now winning, is going to be more attention for the game, for sure. But it's tough for everybody. I mean, for American, for the European, seeing other guys from other countries winning in their own country. It's pretty much frustrating. Maybe you look around, you watch baseball, you win all the time.

Q. You knew about this story?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: No, no. My English not so good. I cannot read the magazines. Still have to improve.

Q. Describe what it's like to come into the US Open the way you are, the No. 1 seed, New York City, the media capitol of the world. How does that feel?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: For me was a little bit of a doubt, too, about the way I got last year here, the way I left early in the first round. Like I said before, was a little bit scare. I had one more day to worry because I thought I was playing yesterday. They put me today. You wanted to play and your adrenaline, it's hot already, you want to go. You have to wait a little bit, be patient. That was my last day here. It's the last Slam event. It's important for everybody. Nobody wants to go away, you know, in the last Slam doing not so good. It's like a challenge for me. I never pass to the quarters here. I know I'm playing right now good enough maybe to do this year. Like I said, it's a doubt as far as you never did it. For me, I think until I don't get there, semis or final, is going to be like this. I always looking forward for next year, next year. Maybe this is the year. I'm going to fight as more as I can. Like today, don't let any point in any match go away, try to put myself into the atmosphere with the crowd and everything. I think that's going to count a lot for the next match.

Q. How much pressure is there compared to years in the past coming in?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I think for sure it is much different being the No. 1 than playing like I was any other guy with nothing to lose. But these past tournaments, past years, I've been learning a lot. I've got used to. So I think I just showing, you know, the way I'm surviving there, holding my position, just that I really got myself established enough to play well and to support this kind of pressure.

Q. Will you feel comfortable with the speed of the court?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Yeah, I think it's kind of fast. But we've been playing like this maybe the last five weeks. I play three, four tournaments in almost the same conditions. I think that's just the way it is. Doesn't matter if you complain or not, if you like or not, you just have to play like this. Nothing going to change. That's the way it is.

Q. A lot of people think you should be more of a star in North America. Do you talk to your agents who say they want you to do these things? Some people don't think you get the respect you should get, having won the French Open. Does it bother you?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: No. Maybe it's because of my character, too. It's not something that it is in my head that I want to get. I mean, I see much more as I like to be a tennis player. You know, I start on the court than anything else. You know, right now I got to be a big idol in Brazil, just because of the success I've been in my career. So I looking forward much more, let's say, to the things I do on the court, then I let it just for the destiny, let's say, to choose what I got to be on the crowd or on the public. I think I bring some interesting for the game. You know, I have feelings that I show other time. Many people got involved in the game. That's make me proud because of myself. So it's not one thing that I always trying to do, try to work, not see my media working here and there. I think maybe my best media is going to be on the court, working there, see if I can get the results I always try to.

Q. Do you prefer the seeding of 32 players or 16 here?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: 16 (smiling).

Q. Why?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I think there's more interesting match in the beginning. Right now it's like they draw too much predict for the early rounds than the others. For me, you know, just my opinion. But before I thought was more like first match you see great matches. A little bit more fun, I thought.

Q. How much did getting to the Ericsson final with Pete a couple years ago make a difference in your mind about the ability to play on other courts?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Well, I think I really progress slow, in small steps. Actually, my first good results on the tour was on hard courts. First time I beat Agassi was on hard court. Then I got to win in the French just like that, so I start to play much better on clay. I had a couple of results that was key for my game. First one was this final. I play semis on Basel indoors, then next tournament I won Masters Cup. I think last year I did this big step up. Right now, you know, I play, I can win, and I can lose against a guy, but I not afraid, I not on doubt what my game can reach. So that's kind of big change for myself. Right now I see myself with good chance to win every match I play.

Q. Did you have any regrets at all about missing Wimbledon?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: No. I think for me was important. Right now I wouldn't really see myself in the condition I am to play all these tournament I play at The Open I am right now. If I didn't have that break, was really tough for me. Last year I had a tough experience, winning the French, then coming back that soon. I got sick and everything. I decide to skip this year. I think was the right decision still. Hopefully I can come back for the next years. Maybe I can be able to play other years. But for this, was just key for me to rest a little bit.

End of FastScripts….

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