E o que parecia quase impossível dias atrás acabou acontecendo. Guga se recuperou no campeonato, venceu Pete Sampras, na quadra rápida coberta do Pavilhão Atlântico de Lisboa e avançou, pela primeira vez na história, à final da Masters Cup, marcando um encontro com Andre Agassi.
Para deixar a história e a semana ainda mais fantástica, Marat Safin, o favoritíssimo a terminar a temporada como número um do mundo, perdera para Agassi no mesmo dia, significando que se Guga vencesse a final, se tornaria o primeiro do ranking.
Mas, naquele momento, logo após a primeira vitória em torneios oficiais sobre Sampras, não era nesse posto de número um que Guga estava focado. Ele estava feliz com a vitória, pensando no campeonato, em como se recuperou e até dizendo que se Safin ficasse com a coroa de melhor do mundo, estaria em boas mãos.
Lembro até hoje da sensação dessa vitória, especialmente depois do Guga ter perdido o primeiro set num tie-break.
Reproduzo aqui o press release com detalhes do jogo, declarações do Larri que escrevi logo após a partida e alguns trechos da entrevista coletiva do brasileiro pós Sampras e pré Agassi, que também encontrei nos meus arquivos.
GUGA VENCE SAMPRAS E DECIDE TÍTULO DE CAMPEÃO DO MUNDO, NESTE DOMINGO
Brasileiro enfrenta Andre Agassi e se vencer é o número um do mundo
Gustavo “Guga” Kuerten decide, neste domingo, o título de campeão do Mundo, na Masters Cup de Lisboa. Depois de vencer o norte-americano Pete Sampras, cinco vezes campeão deste torneio, neste sábado, por 2 sets a 1, parciais de 6/7 (5) 6/3 6/4, em 2h13min de um tênis de altíssimo nivel, Guga enfrentará Andre Agassi, às 13h30min (Brasil), com transmissão ao vivo do Sportv. A vitória, além de valer o título da Copa do Mundo, dará ao brasileiro o posto de número um do mundo.
Sem nunca ter vencido Pete Sampras em torneios da ATP e depois de ter perdido a final do Masters Series de Miami, por 3 sets a 1, em março, na quadra rápida, Guga queria muito a vitória sobre o norte-americano, especialmente depois de quase ter desistido de jogar a competição, na terça-feira, com um espasmo na coxa direita.
Número um do mundo por seis anos consecutivos, Sampras saiu na frente no jogo. Quebrou o saque de Guga no segundo game e logo abriu 3/0. Mas, Guga não se entregou e devolveu a quebra no 1/3, levando a decisão do set para o tie-break, depois de ter salvado dois set points, no 5/6. No tie-break, o brasileiro saiu na frente, mas Sampras passou adiante no 4/4 e fechou a série, com uma devolução de saque de Guga para fora, no 5/7.
No segundo set, Guga conseguiu quebrar o serviço de Sampras logo no segundo game e não deixou mais o rei de Wimbledon se recuperar, fazendo 6/3 e empatando o jogo em um set.
Na série decisiva, Guga teve chances de quebrar o serviço de Sampras no primeiro game, não conseguiu e foi Sampras quem ameaçou o brasileiro, em seguida, com quatro break points. Guga conseguiu se salvar e no 4/4, quebrou o saque de Sampras, só precisando sacar para garantir a vaga na final. Mas, momentos de tensão tomaram conta do Pavilhão Atlântico, quando Guga, no 5/4, teve 15/40 no seu serviço. O brasileiro, vibrando muito, reverteu a situação e fechou o jogo com um ace.
Durante a partida, Guga (Banco do Brasil/Diadora/ Head/Globo.com/Motorola) teve 63% de aproveitamento do primeiro serviço, deu 13 aces, fez 3 duplas-faltas, deu 45 winners e 25 erros não forçados.
O técnico Larri Passos, bastante emocionado, disse que foi a vitória do coração. “O Guga aprendeu muito com a final de Miami. Ele aprendeu que tinha que sacar na esquerda do Sampras, por exemplo. A vitória de ontem, sobre o Kafelnikov, que é o cara mais completo do circuito, foi muito importante também,” contou, emocionado Larri. “Fiquei muito emocionado mesmo, com a vitória, com a faixa que vi na quadra, dizendo que os brasileiros se orgulhavam de mim e do Guga e também com o cumprimento que ganhei do Sampras,logo depois do jogo.”
Para a final deste domingo, contra Andre Agassi, Larri disse que seu pupilo não poderá vacilar. “Ele vai ter que ser agressivo, botar o Agassi para correr e fechar a rede de vez em quando.”
Guga e Agassi se enfrentaram na primeira partida, em Lisboa e o norte-americano, atual oitavo colocado na Corrida dos Campeões e no ranking de entradas, venceu por 2 sets a 1, parciais de 4/6 6/4 6/3. Além disso, Guga e Agassi já se enfrentaram outras sete vezes, com três vitórias de Guga.
Com a derrota de Marat Safin, neste sábado, para o norte-americano Andre Agassi, caso Guga vença amanhã, se tornará o jogador número um do mundo.
Esta será a sétima final que Guga disputa na temporada, tendo sido campeão em Roland Garros, Hamburgo, Indianápolis e Santiago e vice-campeão em Miami e Roma.
December 2, 2000
Q. A couple of days ago you said that Marat deserves the No. 1 spot. What is your opinion about that right now?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: The same. I wish I could play him in the final. Unfortunately, he’s not there. I wish I win, but I wish he’s No. 1.
Q. Will you be able to play? You’re okay? Did you have treatment tonight?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Yes, good treatment now. I’ve been recovering well. As hard as I play, one, two sets, I start to feel a lot of pain. But tomorrow I going to be able to play for sure. Tough five sets. I don’t know how far I can go, but I’ll try to push myself as far as I can.
Q. How much confidence do you have for tomorrow’s final?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: A lot. I win three matches in a row. I didn’t expect to be in the final. Tomorrow I will try really surprise and play aggressive. But don’t expect too much thing. Just happy to be there.
Q. You’re Roland Garros champion. You won a Masters Series. You’re in a final now. Why do you think Safin deserves to be No. 1?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: He won a Grand Slam, too. He won two Masters Championships. He won seven tournaments. As I say, if it was in his hands, it’s well-deserved, you know. It was great competition end of the year, everybody fighting for No. 1. He really did what he need to be. If I win tomorrow, I will be. It’s good. It’s fun. But he could — you know, for sure he could be the No. 1 of the world if I don’t surprise everybody here and win the tournament. That’s what I mean. He well-deserve this spot. For sure, if it stay with him, I’m going to be happy, as well.
Q. Pete has won this tournament five times. He’s one of the greatest indoor players ever. Where do you rank this victory in your career for you?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: The best. For me was special. He’s a great player. I really admire him. Here I never expect to beat him in situation like this. So for sure it’s top level of happiness, dream and everything for me, you know, it’s happen here.
Q. You sound very pessimistic about tomorrow. Is that because he’s already beaten you here this week?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Yes. You know, I don’t feel a hundred percent to run that much that I know I’m going to need tomorrow. But, you know, I’ve been feeling much worse, if you were here in the first day, but you wasn’t. You only come in the final. If I lost, you don’t come. It’s okay (laughter). You would see how bad I was. I was much worse than now. I was feeling very, very bad. Now I’m feeling good, feeling okay. I would say I don’t need to win, I’m happy enough. But let’s see. I will try. I will try for sure and play hard. We’ll see how it’s going to be.
Q. Having heard what you said about Marat and No. 1, but now it’s in your hands. How excited or how nervous does it make you to have that possibility?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Again, again (laughter)? Everybody do the same question. It’s nice, it’s good, but it’s not what I’m feeling right now. I feel in this tournament, the situation, it’s great for me. I feel myself out of the tournament after the first match, and now I see myself in the final. I will try to win the match tomorrow as I can with all the energy I have. If I win, I’m going to be No. 1. It’s consequence. But I think only about winning and finding a way to beat Andre tomorrow. I know it’s going to be tough.
Q. Only when you are No. 1 we can talk to you about being No. 1.
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Yes, hopefully (laughter).
Q. It looked like after the match, he was telling you something nice. Did he tell you anything special?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Yes. I think he really felt the way things was going for me, you know, the way I came back during all the competition during the match, the way I was fighting. He give me great support, you know, wish me good time and good luck in the final. He really said it was a good game, he played well, but I played better. He was like satisfied the way he played, too.
Q. The tactics for tomorrow will be quite different from the game of Tuesday when you played against him?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I will not tell. If I tell, he’s listen, is going to be bad (laughter). I try to be more aggressive as I was the other match that I play him the first day, try to go for the shots a little bit more.
Q. Do you think Lisbon brings you good luck since you won already a tournament in Portugal?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: It’s nice to play here, no? Make me feel comfortable. I’m much closer to my country, my people than I normally am playing other countries. It feels as in home. Makes me feel better on court, of course. I can have a lot of support from people, the crowd and everything. It’s nice. It’s not that I always have great results, but I really enjoy. If I don’t play too good, I really enjoy coming here to play.
Q. Can you tell us a bit about the match today? What did you feel today after winning, beating Sampras?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: It was one of my best victories. I felt a lot of emotion and a lot of happiness. It was very, very special. I’m going to try and live this moment very well till tomorrow and take advantage of these good emotions I’m feeling, inspire myself for tomorrow, try and get these positive feelings and energy to support me in my match tomorrow.
Q. Are you aware of what you’ve done for tennis in Brazil?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: If I stop and just think about what I’ve done for tennis, I think it’s very important. If I’m going to play Sampras or Agassi, it’s going to be very important for the public there. The important thing now is that I’m in the final. Brazil has never had anybody in the Masters. For me to be in the final is absolutely fabulous for the country. If I was a journalist, if I was a Brazilian journalist, I’d be able to do a whole newspaper on this tournament.
Q. Now that Agassi can’t hear us, what are the tactics for the final?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I’m going to try to do everything which I can. I’m going to hit the ball hard. It’s going to have to be a moment which is going to happen tomorrow. The tactic is going to be dependent on the way I feel tomorrow, my emotions. That is what a final involves. I’m going to have to live the moment and decide how I feel in that moment.
Q. What is your message for the Brazilian fans who have big expectations? What is your message?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I always try and send my message in the best way, which is showing my determination and what I’m feeling on the court. I know that everybody is going to be looking at the match tomorrow, very nervous, people praying that I win. It’s important. I think that all Brazilians are very happy. People are forgetting their problems back in Brazil. I’m happy and proud to be part of that. I’m going to try and make it a happy day for Brazil tomorrow. Everybody knows what I’m doing there. I’m doing something unique. If I would arrive there tomorrow, even if I lost, everybody would still be very happy with the way I played this week and the way I behaved.
Q. Yesterday after beating Safin, Sampras said he lacked a bit of mental edge. He said you have a better mental factor than Safin. What do you think of that? Do you think you’re stronger psychologically now?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: Well, I’ve evolved a lot. I’ve grown a lot in that department. I think Safin is only 20 years old. It’s quite good he doesn’t think most of the time because he hits the ball so strong that if he thought, it would be even more dangerous. I think I’m learning to play well with other players, and showing how I can deal with certain problems on the court. I’m getting a lot better on these fast surfaces. It’s really a mental factor to know how to get through tough situations. I think I wasn’t so — I think if I wasn’t so strong mentally, maybe I wouldn’t be able to get to the final, as I did.
Q. You’ve complained about the linesmen. Do you think they have been unfair with you this week?
GUSTAVO KUERTEN: I think it’s difficult. Many balls are quite questionable. I think Sampras and Agassi are the strongest players, the most known players, and sometimes I’ve had situations where I’ve been treated unfairly playing against them because I think if you play a tournament like this in Brazil, if I would play against another player who isn’t Brazilian, maybe I would be favoured there. The name of the player is important when he’s on court. Sometimes we play and don’t see properly.