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December 3, 2000

Gustavo Kuerten


MODERATOR: Questions for Guga.

Q. No. 1 in the world. You explained how it felt in Portuguese on the court. Could you explain how it feels in English for us, as well, please?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Yes. First you should learn Portuguese, huh, it would be easier? (Laughter). No, I just feel amazing, relax and comfortable on the court. Was just full of energy, you know, all the time enthusiastic, very involved with the crowd, people there in my box. I knew was important match, last of the year. I had to fight a lot for that. Things were going better and better every day in this tournament. Today I think I close it out the perfect way, since the first point to the end, aggressive match. I think I surprise Andre a little bit the way I play, you know, a little bit faster than normal, with big confidence, you know, believing in myself. After I beat Pete yesterday, I really believed today I could do the same, you know, surprise Andre.

Q. Yet you were saying last night that you wondered whether you'd even be fit enough to get through the match, yet you seemed to be from the word "go" extremely relaxed and confident. How do you explain that?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Yes, I think it would be a lot because of the way the match start. I just got the break first game, I was always leading so I had these thing that motivate me a little bit extra. Like I told the other day, yesterday, if I have to begin, I got to win in three sets, as short as I can. The longer it gets, it be more tougher. I think everybody saw I had more tough time in the third set to hold my serve. You know, I could manage to serve well big points. These days, you somehow get some helps and things pass in your mind goes easy, your brain is working perfectly, your game. Everything was in the same direction. I think I just wake up today to do this job that I did on court.

Q. How do you assess your very close contest with Marat Safin, two brilliant players, very exciting? How do you assess that?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Well, I think was one of the successful year that we always had on ATP. Since the second, third month to the end of the season, nobody, you know, knew who is going to be No. 1. We had myself a long time, but also Andre, Sampras even, Marat, Norman, you know, mixing up. It really was a pretty tight year, you know. Everybody wants your tournament. We had a semifinal here with the four Grand Slam champion. Normally you don't see this very often, or will be the only time ever. So was a special year, the last year of this century, too. It's big, it's huge for me. It's a great feeling. I think the way I did just this week, I really deserved to beat Pete and Andre in the same tournament. It's very, very, very big.

Q. Is there any particular reason why you served so well the last two matches?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Just learning, watch Sampras playing maybe, learning how to serve, playing smart, you know, mix it up sometimes. Every point for me was a point of my life maybe. I was, you know, trying to get everything I could. I was really into the competition, into the atmosphere, feeling the crowd. Sometimes you go away, you know, from here and you start to be so close to the perfection that it's natural, things just start to go so natural.

Q. Can you believe that you have finished the year as No. 1?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: No (laughter). It's strange. Like I said the other days, you know, I didn't believe I could do this. I think was good for me. I didn't think about this at all. Everybody was asking me. Maybe they didn't believe it, but I really didn't think anything about that because I knew I have too much things to worry already. I did it. I don't know how. If someone told me like at the beginning of the tournament, "To be No. 1, you've got to beat Kafelnikov, then Sampras, then Agassi," I would say, "Come on, no chance." Now, somehow things start to go well. I had the breaks and everything for myself during the match. It really is something that you always think is far, is far away from you. When you get it, you still take a little time to realize.

Q. I know it's very early to ask, but what do you think it will mean for you in the future when you start next year and everyone is saying, "Here is Guga, he is the world No. 1"? What will that mean for you? Will it mean extra pressure or will it help you?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I think I have to wait to see, you know. This today the best day of my life, for sure. I not going to think about pressure or unhappiness. I have to think about good things, to enjoy this. If I have a child, I can tell him that I've been No. 1 one day.

Q. How do you feel to be the first Brazilian, first South American player, to reach the No. 1 in history? What does it mean for your people, for your country, this success?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Yes, great, proud. I love Brazil, no? It's an honor for me to be Brazilian. I think everybody today now, the people are getting crazy there. They really celebrating. I make the day or the week for many, many guys in Brazil. I think we deserve this, you know. We really have to celebrate because we don't have any tournament, don't have Grand Slams, we don't have any tour, maybe some challenger, but nothing from Federation, none of this. So anything we got was always important. Get this far and be here, it's more than anyone could expect. Somehow things happen. I came out from Florianapolis there, small town, come around, start to get my challenge going, made my head believe that I could one day be a tennis player. I did it. Many people can realize that now, can think about this, can celebrate. Maybe or probably we never going to have this anymore.

Q. How badly were you hurt after that first match against Agassi? How close were you actually to pulling out of the whole thing?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: For a few hours, for me I was already out of the contest, you know. I had a very tough time. Was tough loss, tough moments for me. I think everybody saw the way I was playing. I was playing well, was no problem, but I really had this physical problem that struggle all my game. So during maybe two or three hours, I really thought that was it for me, that I didn't be able to play anymore. Things start to change. That's why maybe on court I took a little while, you know, to thanks the people and everybody. It's special here. Really during the day I have to rest. People give me good support, great feelings, great vibrations. I start to put all this together. I knew I had to be stronger and stronger every day. And every day I wake up thinking that my job was already done, you know, "I'm here, I'm fine; let's see what I can do." Then I win one match. Then I pass semifinal, was satisfied. The same to the final. You could see, I was relaxed, enjoying, playing with a lot of fun and proud just the way I was facing all these challenges.

Q. Andre seemed to say some nice things to you at the end of the match. Can you tell us what he said, more than just congratulations?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: No, he really I think like Sampras yesterday, they felt, you know, the way I was feeling, the way I was fighting for all this. They know how big it was for me. He just say for me it was really deserve this, I had unbelievable year, and for me to try enjoy as much I can because it's a great feeling. For me, I still not knowing what it is, I'm going to know from now on. But they been passing this before. So now I going to feel this, these feelings that I think only few guys in the world can feel.

Q. Your achievement here in Lisbon, do you think it scored a lot of points in application for Sao Paolo for the Masters in 2002?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Well, I think when I play well, it's always better chance for us, Brazil get more, you know, respect in tennis. But we had the chance already for next year. Now we not have it anymore. I looking forward to have more tournament. Maybe start with small tournament to be able to see the capacity of the country to do this, and then after a few years really do some big events like that.

Q. Do you think you can continue to play tennis with a smile? So much of the stuff that is written about the game is about people who break their racquets and run out of racquets. Here you are a different face on the game. Do you think you can continue to keep smiling?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I have only three racquets, that's all. If I break two, I cannot play anymore (laughter). I think I'm enjoying a lot. Of course, sometimes it's tough, like it was first day for me. Things start to go bad, you don't feel yourself satisfied and happy with yourself. I think I cannot complain about nothing, during all my career now. I just have to appreciate all that I got. I think the way I see things is important. I never believe to be between these great players. So for me I'm pushing already too much far away than I always expect. It's always nice. It's always good to be around.

Q. How you celebrate your success now? Will you have a rest, a holiday, celebrate with your family?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Yes, I'm very happy because all my family are here so I can celebrate with them, have a good time now these two days. I'm going to have my break for two weeks at least. I can escape a little bit of my routine, you know, go away from tennis. It's going to be first time I stop winning. All the years I go, last match I play, I lost. I think it's going to be different. For sure it will be nice. We have this break at the start of the year, you know, thinking how big and how great was all year long for me. I don't see nothing that can disturb me. Everything going to be so happy and so nice for me. I got to live and taste these next few weeks because maybe it's going to be unique for me.

Q. When are you going to start working again and what is your schedule before the Australian Open?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: When I start to work again?

Q. Yes.

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Probably in two or three weeks I start again. I don't have too much time to stop. Unfortunately, you know, this year has been the longest year ever for me. I try to start slowly, you know, try to play well. Australia, I never had successful there. I never pass the second round. But I think I'm in better situation now. I've been learning more. I start slow, practice a little bit, try to be very well prepared, in the physical condition, then I know I can play well.

Q. Do you think that the Brazilians are going to consider you the biggest idol of Brazil now?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I think I've been a big idol in Brazil these last few years. It's a sentiment which brings me a lot of pleasure. Everybody treats me very well there. I think the tendency is for things to get even bigger and better. Brazil really, really loves to feel these sensations with sports. They love sport. I think my popularity is going to increase a lot. I'm going to take full advantage of that. I hope my career will benefit from that.

Q. Were you expecting to not feel the pressure playing this final?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I've already played six finals this year. I tried to think a lot about that. All the ones I played, I played well. Two of the finals I lost, I lost for little details. I was ready to play this match. It was a very important match. Since the beginning of the year, I've been playing well. I was never nervous at any point. I knew exactly what I had to do. I was feeling very well. Suddenly I managed to present a fantastic, fantastic match today. I really had an excellent year this year. This year was a great experience, with excellent results all year long. I really finished the year with an excellent finish. Agassi had not lost any match for three matches. It was fantastic.

Q. How do you expect to be welcomed in Brazil?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I don't know. What I think is that people should celebrate a lot. I've always been welcomed there, well received there. People have always been very nice to me, all the Brazilian people will always treat me like this. I'm very proud of being Brazilian. I respect all other Brazilians. I'm envious of all those people, I've been treated very special there. I have a lot of charisma and people treat me with a lot of sensitivity. I'm going to live this moment and be able to handle this situation. I hope that I can have, not only now, but in the future, all that support that I've been having from the Brazilian public. Even if I lose or if I win, it doesn't matter. If I have a bad result or a good one, I hope they give me support.

Q. Including Roland Garros both times, have you ever felt so confident on a court as today?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I said this in the other matches. I was really playing excellent shots from any part of the court. Whatever I did, I was managing to control well the ball. I knew that since the first day I had to deal with my physical problems. Because I was really playing well. I really prepared myself well to play each match with confidence and find a way to beat my opponents. I never -- I don't even think I trained the way I should have to have played so well. I don't know how I played so well, with so much confidence. It seems if I don't play for a month, I play fantastically well. I don't know if what I'm feeling is normal or natural. I was really playing with no pressure, playing very, very well. I had positive feelings, I was running well, hitting strong. But I think something very special happened this week, the quality of my matches.

Q. Did you ever feel when you were small that you could be No. 1 in the world?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: To tell you the truth, 12, 13, even eight years old, I never thought I'd get to the Masters Cup or win a Grand Slam. I've done those things now. No one thought I was going to do that. No one thought that a guy coming out of Florianapolis, clumsy, was going to grow up and play so well. I played Agassi today. He was always a great, great player. They had very, very good careers. The same with Sampras. They were made to be champions. It wasn't the same for me. I came from a little town. Brazil has no championship, no ATP tournament. I never played any tournaments in Brazil to gain confidence. I began discovering and started risking throughout the world. Things started to go well. I think I'm a lucky guy, but also I've been very determined and very strong, otherwise it would have been impossible.

Q. Do you think the crowd was supporting Agassi more today?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Well, it was good we played the first match, I felt that, was prepared for that. He's got incredible charisma. He is, without a doubt, the most known player in the world, even Sampras, even Sampras having double the amount of prize money he's had. He's a special player. He's had excellent moments. Now he's having good moments again. That's good motivation, good lesson for people.

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