Depois da vitória sobre o Norman, quando não sabia muito bem o que esperar do seu próprio corpo e do seu jogo, sem ter tido tempo para treinar, Guga voltou a quadra no dia seguinte no Pavilhão Atlântico, em Lisboa, para enfrentar outro dos seus grandes rivais: Yevgeny Kafelnikov.
Era o terceiro confronto entre os dois naquele ano 2000. O primeiro, em Roland Garros, Guga havia vencido em cinco sets e no segundo, nas Olimpíadas de Sidney, a vitória tinha ficado com o russo, em dois sets.
Mas, empolgado com a reviravolta no campeonato, depois de quase ter que abandonar a Masters Cup, Guga venceu mais um jogo. Derrotou Kafelnikov por 6/3 6/4 e avançou pela primeira vez na história para a semifinal da competição, marcando um encontro com Pete Sampras, para o dia seguinte.
Apesar da nova vitória, já começava um pequeno burburinho, mas de fato ninguém começava a imaginar que ele pudesse eventualmente se tornar o número um do mundo e tirar o lugar de Marat Safin.
Para este post, em vez do texto que escrevi logo após a vitória sobre o Kafelnikov em Portugal, que não consegui encontrar – o único que falta no meu arquivo da temporada inteira – achei algo até mais interessante no meu computador – não me pergunte como – a transcrição oficial da entrevista coletiva, em inglês. Sim, em inglês. Apesar do jogo ter sido em um país de língua portuguesa, as transcrições só existiam – e ainda é assim hoje, com exceção de Roland Garros que tem transcrição em francês também – para as perguntas e respostas em inglês.
“Eu quero fazer mais história para a minha carreira e para o Brasil” – Guga
December 1, 2000
MODERATOR: Questions for Gustavo.
Q. Can you give us a status on your physical condition, how you are and how you were feeling on court?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Well, I think, you know, it’s been the same the last few days. I having pain and I having some troubles to move sometimes. But it’s not affecting my performance on court. Everybody see I can play well and I still can compete against the guys. I think I’m going to be almost the same tomorrow. I can have the same performance as today and some chance to have a good match.
Q. It looked like you played maybe one of the best indoor matches – maybe the best. What’s your assessment of how well you played today?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I was very excited, playing great tennis. Like I said before, maybe I playing best tennis ever in my life. I feel like doing every shot, doesn’t matter, I’m doing the right shot. It’s a great feeling, you know. I know how I am. I know my body’s not feeling the best way I would like to. But I’m feeling the ball very well. I’m doing with my mind a lot of pleasure with what I’m doing now. Things are working. I having luck. When I need it, I get some net shots, breaks that I didn’t got in first match. Semifinal, I lost in Paris, too. I think it’s coming for my side a little bit at this part of the year. Luckily, keep it the same way tomorrow.
Q. Aren’t you somewhere afraid that playing, in spite of the injury, can make it worse for maybe the next month or two months, for Australia?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Well, I not really seeing like that. As they say, I have some trouble, but it’s not that if I play, it can cause me a really mess. I’m having a great mind approach, too. I’m seeing always thinking positive. This is helping a lot my recover. Every day, even I’m playing, I’m getting here a little bit better, so that’s great. Everybody satisfied with the way my body’s responding.
Q. It seems you have a great relationship with the Portuguese public. Seems like you’re playing at home. Was that important?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Yes, it’s very, very important. For me, a match like this, it’s very important to be motivated by the public. It was a factor which elevated my level of play. I really like to play in these conditions. At important times of the match, it really makes me play better.
Q. Were you upset with the foot fault that the line judge gave you in the second set?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: No. Well, it’s a bit strange. It’s the first time I was foot faulted. It’s such a difficult thing to say. I think that the line judge has to be very careful with how he calls them.
Q. How do you see your match with Sampras tomorrow?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I’m not too worried about it. I’ve reached the semifinal, which I wasn’t expecting. It’s an historic feat for me and for Brazil. I’m going to play against Sampras, who I consider the best player of all time. It’s a very special occasion. Tomorrow I’m going to be very motivated and I’m going to fight a lot. I know that we both have equal chances.
Q. The fact that you can still mathematically reach the top of the ranking, does that worry you?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: No, I’m not too worried about that, especially after my first defeat here. I’ve tried to forget those things. I’m trying to worry about the things which I really need, which I need to do to win matches and play well. I think that Safin deserves to be the No. 1 Player of the Year. I think he’s played the best now also at the end of the year. He deserves to win. If I manage to pass him, it’s going to be an absolute miracle. I think that the No. 1 spot will be in good hands. I just have to take notice of this fantastic moment. It’s one of the most happy moments of my career.
Q. You are a very emotional player. Do you really live each moment with a lot of sentiment?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Yes, without a doubt – not only on the court, but also outside. Life is full of emotions. I try to live it with the most emotion possible. I do a bit of everything. I cry, I laugh. I try to live it to the most.
Q. Sampras also played with an injury in Wimbledon, and he won. Do you think it’s going to happen to you here also?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: It’s difficult to say that I’m going to win here. I would prefer to have no injury. I think I could be having a better performance. I think I could play a bit better than I am playing. I’ve been able to deal with my injury. The psychological part is very important, even due to my physical limitations.
Q. Can you tell us a bit about what’s going to happen tomorrow before the match?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I’m going to rest a lot. I’m going to try and practice 30 minutes or 40 minutes before the match. I’m going to try and take advantage of this good moment I’m going through. Everybody has their antennas connected here to the pavilion. I think there’s going to be a lot of pressure. The last two days, everything has been my way. I’m going to try to use that to the full advantage tomorrow and be very positive. I’m going to get ready well for the match. I’m thinking that I’m going to make a bit more of history for Brazil – and my career. I have to risk a lot. I know he’s sufficiently good to beat me, and vice versa. I know that the match is going to be very tight. I’m really going to enjoy this moment.
Q. Do you think you’re going to risk a lot tomorrow and play aggressive?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I’ve never felt such pleasure in hitting the ball with strength, unleashing my power. I’m in condition to hit the ball well. I’m focused to play the best I can. Things are going the right way. I managed to work on various problems and overcome many obstacles. It’s going to be a big match tomorrow. It’s going to be a very special moment for me tomorrow. It’s the first time I’m in the semifinals of the Masters.