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INTERVIEWS

March 9, 2007

J. M. DEL POTRO/G. Kuerten

7-6, 6-2

An interview with:

GUSTAVO KUERTEN

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please, for Guga.

Q. Is that the workout you expected today?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Yeah, I wish this -- especially the first set there, I had my chances. I think could be the match could be very different if I had won the set. I would be much more confident. Instead of that, I was very frustrated because I knew to go all the way around, the three would be really tough for me. If I get it going, maybe I had some good chances.
But overall, I think was very good. I think he's a good player. Probably this year, he will finish around top 50 or better. That means that my average is getting closer to where I want it. I just need to get a little bit more consistency, and then just getting maybe some more endurance, too, would help me, you know, during the nexts.

Q. Are you worried with facing three-set matches?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Not really, because for me, I'm not facing the match as before. In one way, it's good because I have maybe a little bit less pressure myself, but other way also, I don't have the angry from before, you know, and all the power from before that I could spend all the time.
I have to be a little bit more concerned, too, about my physical condition, don't spend too much energy around there on the court. And probably, as far as I get more tournaments in, two or three months, I think this will be part of the best, and I'll be able to get back everything again.

Q. In the second set, it looked like you were struggling a little to move to the right, to your forehand. Was that hip-related or were you just a little fatigued?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Yeah, I was really. I think, of course, I was tired because I'm not used to play matches like this, and I really think in the first set, even doing a bad game of 5-4, I really played well and moved well. And he was make me play all the time, so I have to spend a lot of energy.
Together, if we lost, I think mentally, I went down. And as far as I have this gap still with the physical, with my mind goes a little bit down, then it's a big advantage that I have against myself, but --

Q. When did you --
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: But I think it's still part of the things I have to face on the court, but I don't think will be too long like that.

Q. When did you have the hip operation and how is it now?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: The last one I had was a long time ago, maybe two or three years ago.

Q. 2004?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Yes, I think it was 2004. It's good. I am already forgetting. That's a good sign. But now I feel my muscles still not used to this level. I was able to, you know, in five tournaments, I played around two months now. I was able to play in the Challenge 11, now coming here. I think I played the guy really strong for the first round, and I was able to play him, you know, even chase. So that's a sign that it's improving. That's probably the thing that motivate me more as far as getting going like this and don't stop in any stage. I think, you know, I was still raising my game and probably I'll be around now 15 or 20 percent better in my physical, and relating with my leg, I think I would have some good shots in the tournaments.

Q. What was it like to be away from the game for so long? How much did you miss tennis?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Enough to be sure that I want to come back. That's what I was more surely about, you know. I had some good time, not free at all. I was all the time go, doing stuff to be back, but I had the time to get myself in the position to think about where should I go now, what I want to do, and I still have very much, you know, the angry and the way I like to play.
I think it still motivate me, unbelievable, and that's the thing I was emotional about.

Q. Following up on that, when you started back and went to the challenger level, what was it like being back at that juncture where it all started for you all those years ago?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Yeah, I think it's -- I still, especially in this match, once it gets tied, 5-0 or tie breaker, is a little bit, I have to think too much, not as natural as before. At the same time it's what I like, you know. It's enthusiastic. It's danger. So it's the nerves of out there. It's everything I want it to be when I am on the tennis court.
I had last week also in Las Vegas this challenger situation, and hopefully today, I was able to get all the shots I was right about the challenge. But it's, I think -- for me the feeling to be there in this atmosphere, the people, the crowd, my side, too, I think that's really -- it's been pushing me a lot.

Q. What were you thinking when some of the guys who you used to compete against like, Corretja and Agassi and more your generation were retiring? Were you thinking, "Maybe I should just retire with them and not come back and play against the young guys"?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Yeah, but I'm much younger than Agassi or Corretja, five years difference.
I see a few guys in my age that are retired; I don't think too many. Most of the guys, like Moya or even Ljubicic, Ljubicic is playing now better than when I was in my best form.
The Hewitt, he's very young, he's much younger than me, but I play against him most of the years I was there. Safin, you know, the guys has not been changing so much. I think the only one that wasn't around was knocked out is the one that is probably the youngest and the guy that's giving some new attitudes in the game, too.
But everyone has a different opinion. Probably, if I would have normal four years that I had the struggling with the injuries, playing back to back for me, probably I could say that's enough. But I had lack of tournaments for maybe two or three years already. You know, I missed to be around. I don't -- especially right now, my goal is not -- I don't even dream, you know, about being winning tournaments here or in Miami or being top 10 in the world. I want to get things going again, feel myself comfortable and maybe have some shots in the near future.

Q. When you were watching Nadal win Roland Garros the last two years and you were the best player at Roland Garros over the decade, you had your three, and when you're watching Nadal, were you thinking, "Maybe I can't beat this guy, maybe my body will never get me to the point where I can play that kind of clay court, great clay court tennis at Roland Garros again"?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Well, I think I can get to a point that's, you know, I try to be the same player as before and try to get the best from myself. But it's tough to see things when you have somebody in line, too, me against him. We have to be there and play our best and see what's happening.
But for sure for me, too, what I really looking for is just what you said, feel that maybe not even only the French Open but going to the U.S. Open here, around the tour already and other tournaments, and the few that I'm able to play my best tennis again, hitting the shots that I like.
It seems like, you know, I'm getting things much more close right now than used to be, so probably I'm looking forward to, maybe in two or three months, to get to a level that I really can get, to just worry about the tactics and, you know, the technique I'm playing and don't need to get myself worried about the physical anymore.
THE MODERATOR: Just a couple more please.

Q. In your most difficult days when you were off the tour, what did you dream of? What did you -- what was the one or two things you dreamed of?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Golf. I start playing golf, you know. I was dreaming about golf all the time. I had to stop for a little bit. But I think in the future I have a normal life. I'm not afraid also, you know. In few years I'm sure I'm gonna stop to play and one day or other. But I'm not afraid about this because I have a lot of nice things to do in my hometown. I have a good relation with family, friends, and I study my clothes, business, too. So I have many things to worry about when I stop play.

Q. How about the state of tennis in Brazil. Someone of your stature may do something to do changes. Do you have plans like that some day?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Yes. I'm sure I'm gonna be involved with tennis. I tried to give back, you know, to not only playing, but also to the kids in Brazil and for the players.
The things tennis brought to me, everything I learned and I got from the game, I try to get the experience for other people and see if we can make some more better plays in Brazil. I think we really lack of good players and we deserve to have some more people there playing well.

Q. In the research center, we looked at injuries and the majority of injuries have taken place on people who hit off the back foot, and we did quite an analysis of your game, and it places several hundred pounds of force on the hip and knee and ankles. Are you concerned that it might happen again with the new hip?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: No. I think I -- I got to a point I was a few years ago. But now I really feel myself getting better. I don't -- I'm not having some of the backwards like I was last year, you know, going well and then somehow I went down below again.
So now I really start to rise, not faster as I know it will not be, but I'm already maintaining, getting better and maintaining and getting better. I think in this way, you don't have the doubts in your mind, you start to be more and more sure.

Q. Could you talk about what it would mean to Brazil if it ended up hosting the Olympics. I know Rio has made a very strong bid for the games in 2016. What it would mean to Latin America considering the Olympics have never been there?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I think it would be huge, and the Brazil people are very passion, especially on sports. People would love to, you know, to host such an event as this. And we've got to make sure we are prepared. And if we had this opportunity, try to do it as best as we can, and, you know, probably would be a huge evolution in all sports around Brazil, that's for sure.

Q. Will you be playing in the Davis Cup in April?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I hope so. I think in this last three or next two or four weeks, I have to grow a little bit more. But as far as I've been growing this last month, I think I have a great chance to play.

Q. Do you fear Canada?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: They're not gonna kill me. You know, tennis is not a contact sport, so the fear you get, anxious, you get tense, but no fears.

Q. Where would you put Federer against the great players that you've played?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I always told, you know, if I had him comparing more with Sampras and I always thought that looking head-to-head, I thought Sampras had the better shot for me. But, you know, as far as he's been growing and getting better and better, I'm sure he's getting close and I think it's -- the only way you can compare it, about the numbers, the opponent's you face, is different, the time is different.
And tennis goes every 10, 15 years, goes one step farther every time. So I think by the record and the numbers, he's breaking down one after the other. I think he's really, you know, being probably in one or two years, he's gonna be the best player in tennis ever.
THE MODERATOR: One last.

Q. Do you think the level in the top 10 right now is significantly higher than when you left with your injury?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I don't know. I think the way he, him and also Nadal, they got so much away from the other guys that I think the other guys start to disbelieve a little bit, you know. So I would say, before we had more competitions against everybody around, that makes everybody trying to be better and better. Right now, the way I see, I see Federer very comfortable in there, and people sometimes comfortable too to be three or four in the world.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, everyone.

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