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March 13, 1999

Gustavo Kuerten


GREG SHARKO: First question for Gustavo.

Q. What happened in the third set?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Well, I think the start of the set, you know, the beginning, was very important. I played, maybe, the worst game in the match in the first game that I served in the third set. So quickly I think this was the difference between to him to win. I was just, I don't know, lose concentration a little bit; he took advantage of that. After he was really playing well, cover the court really well. I didn't see a way to come back. It was a close match. We both playing a good shots from baseline. He maybe was a little bit more solid, like, during all match, and I went down too much on third set.

Q. You helped him to reach the No. 1 spot. I'm sure that wasn't your intention. I know he's a friend of yours. How do you feel about that?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Yeah, I think I didn't help him. I was trying to do the opposite. I don't know how I say. It was interesting match. He was really fighting so hard. Since the beginning, he was really into it, just try everything. I also, because we knew it's semifinal, race to the No. 1, it's very exciting. So maybe I got a little bit more nervous than him. I don't know. Now, I'm just happy with myself because I play really well this week. Happy for him, too, to see a great guy, very simple, doesn't care about nothing, just there to help if you need. A friend of mine since five years already. He was early on the top. I was just one player. He's not like he didn't talk to me or anything like that. He's very simple. I like that. I like guys like him. I'm very pleased to see this. Not happy because he beat me, but to see the way they celebrate with his coach, all together since a long time they work. So it's nice to see.

Q. You talked about nerves. In that third set, it didn't look as if he had any nerves in him at all, even though it was such an exciting situation ahead of him. Did you feel that? If so, is that even more impressive?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Yeah, he's one of the guys that can handle the situation very well. I think everybody on the Tour knows that. I usually, also, play well when is a big match like this. I think we saw a great game, not like we both was nervous and we just push the ball to the other side; but we run a lot, we try many different shots. It wasn't really bad all day. He was able to, you know, focus on the game and forget about everything else, just think about the way to beat me, not to think about points or anything like that during the match. I think he find the best way to him to hang on this situation. He's very good on this.

Q. For a year or so, so many players have been chasing the No. 1 position, except briefly for Rios, all have failed. What quality does Carlos have that enabled him to become No. 1? What was the one thing?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I don't know. Maybe it's not qualities. Just sometimes it's even some, I don't know, help or bless from God, too. This week I didn't expect him to be No. 1, but he did it. I thought other guys had more chance than him. Like sports, you never know. Maybe from now, next week can be another guy in No. 1. So maybe some guys get more nervous and cannot play their best when they close, but it's the only thing that matters. I think Kafelnikov or Rafter or the other guys, they still have chance. Maybe they going to be No. 1, as well.

Q. Do you think he has the ability to fend off a lot of these challenges, at least for the next few months, and stay No. 1?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Yeah, I think it's going to be tough to him when starts the clay. He has a lot of points to defend, even the win on French. He's a great player, especially on clay, too. It's going to be interesting, I think. Many guys around him. I think this is good for tennis, too. It's getting that danger from many place around the world. It's nice to see a Spanish guy No. 1 now, one more country to get there. I hope Brazil get there, too, one day (laughter).

Q. It was mentioned earlier about the other players who failed to overtake Sampras. Do you think in some sort of odd way that was almost a mental block, and now there's somebody else to chase, they also will find it easier?

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I don't think like nobody's going to get there in an easy way. All the time, just the last match or the last week, when you see your chance, it's a little bit different. But I think many guys has chance to get the place now. Now, maybe they don't have to take Sampras out; they can take Carlos out. It's going to be different and maybe easy for some. I don't know. But I think any guy who is around 10 in the world, they have a chance to become No. 1.

Q. I was just thinking Kafelnikov has several times said in the last few weeks, "Sampras is the greatest player that's ever been," et cetera, et cetera. It's almost as if he was telling himself, "I ought not to beat him, not overtake him." Perhaps now that Sampras is out of the way, he won't have that concern.

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I think this year so far, Sampras is not in his best shape, not playing really well. Maybe another guys, we start to see different, they going to find a way or see themselves in Sampras position. Maybe this change a little thing, a little bit, for all those guys. They really, I don't know, try to believe in theirself. Tennis is much about this, believing in yourself and trying to do it because we talk about maybe the best players in the world. So I think it's getting very close right now, and everybody has a chance to do it.

Q. You said you would like to see a Brazilian become No. 1. If you had to say when that would happen, when do you think that will happen?


Q. A Brazilian to become No. 1.

GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Brazilian become No. 1, is already No. 1 in soccer. In tennis, I don't know. This week I saw myself really well, able to play against any player. I had chance maybe to win the tournament, too. I lost a tough match now. But tennis like this, you know. Last week, I lost in first round on Scottsdale, very small tournament compared with this. Now, this week, I'm playing so well. I hope to keep my confidence high and really try to get points and stay more solid to try to get the Top 10, think about the goal a little bit farther

End of FastScripts....

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