Guga Kuerten, Roland Garros 1997

From Tennis Confidential by Paul Fein

“He’s just what tennis needs”

raves hard to please John McEnroe. Indeed, Gustavo Kuerten is the proverbial “nice guy” without being bland or boring, and a colorful personality minus boorish antics. Throw in spectacular athleticism, and you can see why everyone is going ga-ga over Guga.

Crowd loved Kuerten’s smiling insouciance during his fairy-tale French Open. Chants of “Guga, Guga” everberated in Stade Roland Garros and buoyed the unseeded, unheralded Brazilian to one of the Open Era’s most shocking and exciting Grand Slam triumphs. The sixty-sixth-ranked Kuerten, who had never advanced past an ATP tour quarterfinal and was only 2-7 on clay this year, knocked off former French champions Thomas Muster, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, and Sergi Bruguera for the prestigious title.

The fact that twenty-year-old Guga looks like a cartoon caricature endears him to fans even more.
His stringbean body, ingenuous face, unkept curls, and eye-catching attire give him the most distinctive appearance of any top player since the young Agassi. Kuerten says his gaudy gold and electric blue soccer-style outfits – which prompted French Tennis Federation president Christian Bimes to advocate a stricter dress code – “show my personality.” In Cincinnati, he promised his clothes would be flashier than Agassi’s.

When the charismatic Kuerten made history as the first Brazilian man to capture a Grand Slam singles title, he became the new national hero and ignited a tennis boom in Brazil. Tennis racket sales jumped 40 percent in his hometown of Florianopolis during the French Open fortnight, and manufacturers sold $3 million of his trademak outfits in Brazil in the week following the tournament.

“Guga has brought so much happiness to the Brazilian people. You can’t imagine,”

says Diana Gabanyi, his publicity director.

“Everyone from the taxi drive to the people at the bus station to the people in his hometown talks about him. Everyone loves him. His personality and smile captivate people. He’s winning and he’s taking Brazil’s name throughout the world. Right now Guga is as big as soccer star Ronaldo. That’s incredible!”

When I asked Guga what it’s like being the hot new star in men’s tennis, he laughed and modestly downplayed it.

“My life has changed a bit, but I don’t see myself as a big star. I’m too young to be a star. I don’t want to change. I just want to keep playing tennis and enjoy it.”

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Françoise Durr, Roland Garros 1967

From Game, set and deadline by Rex Bellamy:

French tennis will long remember this sweltering Sunday afternoon. At 4.20 the crowded centre court of the Stade Roland Garros – its four vast banks ablaze with colour, like giant flower-beds – almost bust asunder with noise and movement. France was saluting its first women’s singles champion since Nelly Landry (French by marriage) in 1948 and its first French-born winner since Simone Mathieu in 1939.

The new national heroine is Françoise Durr, born at Oran, Algeria, on Christmas Day, 1942. Already she had dismissed Maria Bueno (Brazil), the United States champion. Today she beat Lesley Turner (Australia), the Italian champion, by 4-6 6-3 6-4 in an arduously close match that lasted for an hour and 35 minutes.

Miss Durr‘s triumph was a smack in the eyes for the purists, a vindication of all those who claim that character is more important than talent, and a sharp rebuttal of the silly old cliché that nice guys – or nice girls – finish last.

Miss Durr’s sunglasses and her pink hair-ribbon are distinctive but not elegant. The same applies to her grip and her strokes: especially the sliced backhand that often takes her down on one knee. What binds all the pecularities together and makes her such a bonny competitor on hard courts is her ball control, the result of painstaking hard work, and the unfailingly sharp wits that command her tactics. She knows where the ball needs to go for maximum effect: and she has the control to put it there.

The crowd’s collective heart was at one with Miss Durr’s. Even while rallies were in progress, there were shrieks of joy o gasps of horror. How she had to fight! At 6-4 and 2-all Miss Turner looked well on the way to regaining a title she had won twice before. In the third set, marred by the distraction of controversial line calls, she came within two points of leading 5-2. But Miss Durr caught her, then pressed an attack on Miss Turner’s backhand. This squeezed out a last, decisive error, at which Miss Durr flung her racket so high that it might have brained her on the way down.

Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2005

From Nadal autobiography Rafa:

The Argentines are like the Spaniards, experts on clay. And Puerta played better than me for long stretches of the match. I had not yet mastered the trick of isolating myself from my environment and from my fears. You never do fully, otherwise you wouldn’t be human. But back then building the emotional defenses necessary to win consistently remained a work in progress, and the nerves tampered with my thoughts processes more than they would later in my career. What I didn’t lack in that final was energy.
Puerta was playing well, well enough to win the first set 7-5. But I think of that game now and what comes to mind is a sense of never having paused for a breath. I was fighting and running as if I could fight and run for two days without rest. I was so excited at the thought of winning that I never felt a moment’s tiredness, which in turn tired Puerta out. I held on, I was steadier on the big points, and I won every set after the first one 6-3, 6-1, 7-5.

In the space of barely six months I’d climbed three peaks, one higher than the next. The Davis Cup, my first ATP win at Monte Carlo, and now, the headiest of all, the French Open, my first grand Slam.
The emotions I felt were indescribable. At the moment of the victory I turned and saw my family going nuts, my paents hugging, my uncles screaming, and I understood immediately that, for all the years of hard work I had put in, this victory had not been mine alone. Without thinking, the first thing I did after shaking hands with Puerta was rush into the crowd and clamber up the steps to hug my family, Toni first among them. My godmother Marilen was there and she was crying. “I couldn’t believe it“, she told me later, recalling her reaction to the final point. “I looked at you there, a big, grown-up champion with his arms in the air, and suddenly my mind leapt back in time and I saw an image of a deadly serious, skinny little boy of seven, training on court back home in Manacor.

I had similar thoughts. I had battled so hard and long to get here. But into my mind there also came images of home with my family, and more than ever before, I understood that day that, however great your dedication, you never win anything on your own. The French Open was my reward, and my family’s reward too.
I also felt relief. In winning a Grand Slam I’d taken a weight off my shoulders. Anything else that life bought would be a welcome bonus. Not that I was going to ease up on my ambition. I had tasted victory at the highest level; I had liked it and wanted more. And I had a sense that after winning a tournament of this magnitude once, it would be less difficult to do it again. It was now, after winning at Roland Garros, that the idea began to take shape in my mind that I would win Wimbledon one day.