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Weeks ago I had the chance to meet one of the main stars of Brazilian sport, Gustavo “Guga” Kuerten, the only one ever number 1 on ATP world ranking from this country, 3 times Roland Garros winner, among many other prizes and awards on and off the court, and still far from being overcome. Here in Brazil he keeps a level of popularity similar to Pelé, Ronaldinho or Ayrton Senna, super famous, respected and loved by everyone. That’s why his name and image appears oftenly on the ads of many products and also supporting a variety of social campaigns.
The tennis club where we train regularly, Vila do Tênis, with a wonderful view over the Paranoa lake in Brasilia, will be hosting an invitational tournament from Banco do Brasil, maintaining a ranking with weekly updates, Ourocard is the sponsor and “Guga” came specially from Florianopolis, his city, as a special guest for the launching ceremony.
Toll and slim as I imagined, I was surprised about his incredible patience to take hundreds of pictures and never stop writing autographs, with his best smile for each and every one of the fans surrounding him. In the 2 hours he was at the event, he couldn’t stop, the crowd didn’t let him… unbelievable patience! patience of a number 1. The tough side of being so famous.
Afterwards, when speaking to the guests, his simplicity and humbleness were remarkable, highlighting the opportunity to meet Brazilian Number 1 of wheelchair tennis: Carlos Santos “Jordan” (my regular training partner, currently 30 of ITF ranking) and encouraging everybody to use tennis for health and social integration.
We took advantage and put a racquet on his hands (my racquet… he he!) to hit some balls on court. Jordan, Samuel (my son) and Igor (another kid from the club) couldn’t hide their excitement to be playing with a former number 1 of the world. And they do it pretty well, as well as him, despite wearing jeans… his style and hair… always the same!
As serve and withdraw may be the same word in portuguese (saque) he made some jokes about it and gave us autographed t-shirts. To close, he reminded players and media about the yearly event he organizes in Floripa (in the southern state of Santa Catarina, near Argentina), “La semana de Guga” (Guga’s week), this year it will include a wheelchair tennis ITF3 tournament, from October 6 to 9, the “Guga Kuerten Cup” with a USD 10.000 prize money. For sure we will see again the great Guga performing as a host and sportsman, he has plans to have an exhibition match against Sergi Bruguera, the Spaniard player he beated in the Roland Garros’ 1997 final. Show de bola!
Guga’s official web site http://www.guga.com.br/
And the tournament information on the ITF’s site, Copa Guga Kuerten 2011