Gustavo Kuerten

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Gustavo Kuerten
Gustavo Kuerten2.jpeg
Country (sports)  Brazil
Residence Florianópolis, Brazil
Born (1976-09-10) September 10, 1976 (age 40)
Florianópolis, Brazil
Height 190 cm (6 ft 3 in)[1]
Turned pro 1995
Retired May 25, 2008
Plays Right-handed (one-handed backhand)
Prize money $14,807,000
Int. Tennis HoF 2012 (member page)
Career record 358–195 (64.74%) (ATP Tour level, Grand Slam level, and Davis Cup)
Career titles 20
Highest ranking No. 1 (December 4, 2000)
Grand Slam Singles results
Australian Open 3R (2004)
French Open W (1997, 2000, 2001)
Wimbledon QF (1999)
US Open QF (1999, 2001)
Other tournaments
Tour Finals W (2000)
Olympic Games QF (2000)
Career record 108–95 (ATP Tour level, Grand Slam level, and Davis Cup)
Career titles 8
Highest ranking No. 38 (October 13, 1997)
Grand Slam Doubles results
Australian Open QF (1999)
French Open QF (1998)
Wimbledon 1R (1999, 2000)
US Open 1R (1997, 2003, 2004, 2007)
Team competitions
Davis Cup SF (2000)

Gustavo Kuerten (Portuguese pronunciation: [ɡusˈtavu ˈkiɾtẽ]; born September 10, 1976 in Florianópolis), nickname as Guga, is a retired former World No. 1 tennis player from Brazil. He won the French Open three times (1997, 2000, and 2001), and was the Tennis Masters Cup champion in 2000.

Kuerten suffered many problems with injuries which led him to miss a number of tournaments between 2002 and 2005. After a few failed attempts of comebacks, he retired from top-level tennis in May 2008.

Kuerten is commonly known as Guga (pronounced: [ˈɡuɡɐ]), an affectionate nickname which is a somewhat common abbreviation of the name Gustavo in Portuguese-speaking countries.

Early life[edit]

Kuerten was born in Florianópolis in southern Brazil. He began playing tennis when he was six, an early start to a life and career marked by family tragedy. His father, Aldo, a former amateur tennis player, died of a heart attack in 1985 while umpiring a junior tennis match in Curitiba, when Kuerten was eight years old. His older brother, Raphael, is currently his business manager. His youngest brother, Guilherme, suffered prolonged oxygen deprivation and consequently irreparable brain damage during birth, and as a result suffered from mental retardation and severe physical disability until his death in 2007.[2] Kuerten was deeply affected by his brother's daily struggles, later donating the entire prize money from one tournament he has won every year of his professional career so far to a hometown NGO that provides assistance for people suffering from similar disabilities. He gave every trophy he won to his younger brother as a souvenir, including the three miniature replicas of the French Open men's singles trophy. His favourite football team is Brazilian Avaí Futebol Clube.

As a young player, Kuerten first learned from Carlos Alves. Alves would continue to coach Kuerten for the next 8 years. When he was 14 years old, Kuerten met Larri Passos who would be his coach for the following 15 years. Passos convinced Kuerten and his family that the youth was talented enough to make a living out of playing tennis. The two started traveling all over the world to participate in junior tournaments. Kuerten turned professional in 1995.

Professional career[edit]

As a junior player in South America, Guga won many of the most important tournaments in the region.[citation needed] He often played in an age group above his.[citation needed]

After two years as a professional, Kuerten rose to the position of no. 2 player in Brazil, second only to Fernando Meligeni, and had his then highest point by helping the Brazil Davis Cup team defeat Austria in 1996 and reach the competition's first division, the World Group.

Following his unexpected victory in the 1997 French Open - which was not only his maiden ATP Tour victory but also the first time he had reached a professional ranking final - Kuerten had a difficult year and a half, adjusting to his sudden fame and the pressure of being expected to win. 1998 was the worst year in his career that was not related to injuries. The pressure for him to become an "ambassador" for tennis in Brazil was made evident after his early defeat to a then unknown Marat Safin in the 1998 French Open: the entire body of Brazilian journalists that had been dispatched to Paris to cover the event immediately returned home, leaving the rest of the tournament unaccounted for in Brazil.[citation needed]

Like many South Americans, his favorite court surface is clay. He won three Grand Slam titles, all of them at the French Open, played on the clay courts of Roland Garros. He won these titles in 1997, 2000 and 2001. In every one of the three French Open victories he defeated Russia's Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the quarterfinal match and defeated two top 10 players on his way to the title. Kuerten became the No. 1 player in the world in 2000.

Kuerten won at least one title a year between 1997 and 2004. The streak came to an end in 2005, when injuries and below-average performances kept him from winning tournaments. He was also a regular participant for Brazil in the Davis Cup.

Kuerten embraced the baseline style of play, with heavy topspin on his ground strokes and a solid serve that enabled him to wear down his opponent from the back of the court. He played right-handed with a single-handed backhand using a western grip.


At the 1997 French Open, he became the first Brazilian to win a Grand Slam singles title since Maria Ester Bueno at the 1966 U.S. Open. Victories over three former champions - Thomas Muster in the 3rd round, Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the quarterfinals and Sergi Bruguera in the final - made him the third-lowest ranked Grand Slam Champion (ranked 66th) and this led to him entering the Association of Tennis Professionals top 20. Only Mark Edmondson (ranked 212th) and Goran Ivanišević (ranked 125th) were ranked lower than Kuerten when winning a Grand Slam singles title.

He received his French Open trophy from former champions Björn Borg and Guillermo Vilas. When called to the stage to receive the winner's trophy, Kuerten reverently bowed a few times to his childhood idol Borg, who was waiting at the top of the stairs to shake his hand. Later, during the ceremony, Vilas whispered something in Kuerten's ear that caused him to laugh during the speech of the chairman of the event. Kuerten later refused to reveal what it was that Vilas had said, claiming it would be inelegant to do so, but journalists that were equipped with powerful lenses were able to read Vilas's lips, and it was revealed that he had said in Spanish something like: "Get ready kid, it's going to rain women on your lap!"[citation needed]


In 1999, he became one of three South Americans to complete the year in the top 10 in all the history of the ATP rankings.[citation needed] In May he won the Rome Masters, beating Patrick Rafter in the final. In June he reached the quarterfinals at the French Open. At Wimbledon, he became the first Brazilian to reach the quarterfinals since Thomaz Koch in 1972. He was defeated by Andre Agassi in the quarterfinals, but had lost just one set until that stage. In July, he defeated Sébastien Grosjean 9–7 in the fifth set of the 1999 Davis Cup quarterfinal between Brazil and France. That match lasted 4 hours and 43 minutes. He also became the first Brazilian to qualify for the ATP World Championship, today known as the ATP Tennis Masters Cup, which is exclusive to the eight best ranked players in the calendar year.


Kuerten won his second French Open title by defeating Magnus Norman (who had beaten him a few weeks earlier in the final of the Rome Masters) on his 11th match point. Kuerten became the first South American to finish the year as World No. 1 in the history of the ATP rankings (since 1973). It was a close contest with young up-and-comer Marat Safin at the year's last event, the Tennis Masters Cup (in its first year under that name) in Lisbon, Portugal, with one loss meaning that Safin would have been No. 1. Kuerten finished the year at number 1 by beating Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi in back-to-back matches on an indoor hard court.

He broke an eight-year hold of players from the U.S. on the year-end No. 1 position. He also became the first South American to finish in Top 5 in consecutive years since Guillermo Vilas of Argentina in 1977–78.


In 2001, he won his third French Open crown, joining former greats Björn Borg (6), Ivan Lendl (3) and Mats Wilander (3) with three or more French Open titles in the Open Era; former champion Jim Courier presented him with the trophy. His road to the title saw him save a match point against fourth round opponent Michael Russell. He also won the biggest hardcourt title of his career in August at the Cincinnati Masters, where he defeated Patrick Rafter in the final. He led the ATP in prize money for the second straight year, with US$4,091,004.


In an injury-ridden year, Kuerten won one ATP Tour title, which he did at home, by winning the Brasil Open for the second time. In that year, the tournament had been moved from September to February, and the surface had been changed from hard to clay, as a result of a compromise with the Buenos Aires Open, in Argentina, and the Viña del Mar Open, in Chile, to tighten up a clear South American tournament circuit. With his victory, Kuerten became the only player to win the title on both surfaces, having previously won it in 2002.

Kuerten was responsible for the only defeat of Roger Federer in a Grand Slam event in 2004. In Kuerten's only previous encounter against Federer on clay, in the Hamburg Masters 2002, Federer defeated Kuerten 6–0, 1–6, 6–2. When they met again in the third round at the French Open in 2004, it was Federer who was in dominant form, the world #1, and expected to win against the injury-ridden Kuerten. Instead, it was Kuerten who overpowered and dominated Federer, sending him off in straight sets (6–4, 6–4, 6–4). This would remain the last time that Federer was defeated in any Grand Slam prior to the quarterfinals stage until his Round 2 loss against Serhiy Stakhovsky at Wimbledon in 2013.

On September 1, Kuerten announced that he would be withdrawing from the ATP Tour for an indefinite period of time, in order to undergo detailed exams of his operated hip, which had reportedly started to bother him again. He did not play again for the rest of the year.


In the first months of 2006, injuries and weak performances kept Kuerten from reclaiming his status as a top world player. Ranked out of the top 200, Kuerten was no longer the top player in Brazil (currently behind Ricardo Mello and Flávio Saretta) and was expected to need wildcards to play any of the main tournaments of the season. His main attempt to come back, at the 2006 Brasil Open, was cut short in the first round. Following this debacle, Kuerten managed to obtain wildcards to play in the two North American Masters Series events, Miami and Indian Wells, but injuries forced Kuerten to withdraw from both. The French Tennis Federation had announced that Kuerten, as a three-time champion, would have every chance of being granted a wildcard to play at the 2006 French Open, provided that he managed to remain active throughout the 2006 season leading up to the French Open. Because Kuerten had been inactive in the Men's Tour since mid-February, he was not granted the wildcard to play, thus missing the French Open for the first time in his professional career.


Kuerten's form did not improve in 2007. Because his ranking was not high enough to qualify for ATP Tour tournaments, Kuerten relied on wild cards to enter those events. Kuerten finished with a 2–7 win–loss record for the year.

In November, Gustavo Kuerten's younger brother, Guilherme, who had cerebral palsy, died.


Kuerten made an announcement that he expected 2008 to be his final year of play.[3] Kuerten chose to devise his schedule around tournaments that had sentimental value to him, such as the French Open, where he lost in the first round, the Brasil Open, and the Miami Masters. After two first-round defeats in singles (Costa do Sauípe, l. to Berlocq and Miami, l. to Grosjean), Kuerten won his first ATP Masters Series level match in a long time, partnering Nicolás Lapentti, in Miami, against Feliciano López and Fernando Verdasco.


On May 25, 2008, Gustavo Kuerten played his last professional singles match in front of 15,000 spectators at Roland Garros. He arrived on court wearing his 'lucky' uniform, the same blue & yellow one that he wore in 1997 when he won his first French Open tournament. Despite saving a match point against his opponent Paul-Henri Mathieu, he finally lost in three sets (6–3, 6–4, 6–2)—his result in the final of French Open in 1997. He was honored after the game by the tournament organizers and by all the fans present for what he has achieved throughout his career. In 2016, he was asked to be the torch bearer for the Rio Olympics.


During his career, Guga used Head racquets and Diadora clothes, changing them on a short period for Olympikus and Head. In 2012, after his retirement, he signed a sponsor deal with French brands Lacoste (for clothes) and Peugeot (for TV commercials). Guga also has his own clothes and glasses brand, named "Guga Kuerten".

Life after tennis[edit]

Since retirement he has settled down in his place of birth, the Brazilian island of Florianópolis, where he enjoys being an active member of life in the lakeside district of Lagoa da Conceição. He still enjoys teaching and playing tennis with the local enthusiasts. After a match, he is known to enjoy some sake down at the local Mexican restaurant Cafe do Sol.[citation needed] In his hometown, he is known as the "Cachorro Grande" ("Big Dog").[citation needed] He is an avid surfer and can sometimes be seen surfing at Praia Brava where he has an apartment.[citation needed]

Kuerten has been accepted to a drama course on CEART, Center of Arts at Santa Catarina State University (UDESC) in Florianópolis. He began his studies there on February 16, 2009.[4][5]

Kuerten was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2012.[6]

Kuerten participated in the Olympic Torch Relay for Rio 2016, having the honored position of bringing the flame into the Olympic Stadium.[7]


Career statistics[edit]

Grand Slam performance timeline[edit]

Tournament 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 SR W–L
Australian Open A A 2R 2R 2R 1R 2R 1R 2R 3R A A A A 0 / 8 7–8
French Open A 1R W 2R QF W W 4R 4R QF 1R A A 1R 3 / 11 36–8
Wimbledon A A 1R 1R QF 3R A A 2R A A A A A 0 / 5 7–5
U.S. Open A A 3R 2R QF 1R QF 4R 1R 1R 2R A A A 0 / 9 15–9
Win–Loss 0–0 0–1 10–3 3–4 13–4 9–3 12–2 6–3 5–4 6–3 1–2 0–0 0–0 0–1 3 / 33 65–30

Finals: 3 (3 titles)[edit]

Outcome Year Championship Surface Opponent in the final Score in the final
Winner 1997 French Open Clay Spain Sergi Bruguera 6–3, 6–4, 6–2
Winner 2000 French Open (2) Clay Sweden Magnus Norman 6–2, 6–3, 2–6, 7–6(8–6)
Winner 2001 French Open (3) Clay Spain Àlex Corretja 6–7(3–7), 7–5, 6–2, 6–0

Year-End Championship performance timeline[edit]

Tournament 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 SR W–L
Tennis Masters Cup Did Not Qualify RR W RR Did Not Qualify 1 / 3 5–6

Finals: 1 (1 title)[edit]

Outcome Year Championship Surface Opponent in the final Score in the final
Winner 2000 Tennis Masters Cup, Lisbon, Portugal Hard (i) United States Andre Agassi 6–4, 6–4, 6–4

Titles detail[edit]

Grand Slam tournaments[edit]


  • 1997: Defeated 3 champions, who had won the previous 4 editions, en route to title: Bruguera (1993–94), Muster (1995) and Kafelnikov (1996).
  • 2000: As in 1997, faced Kafelnikov in the quarterfinal match; second final of the year against Norman ("a historical rivalry", in Kuerten's words).
  • 2001: For the third time faced Kafelnikov in the quarterfinal match; for the second time, faced Ferrero in the semifinal match. Saved a match point against Russell in the 4th round.

Tennis Masters Cup tournaments[edit]

2000 Tennis Masters Cup (Lisbon)

Round Opponent (Rank) Score
RR United States Andre Agassi (8) 6–4, 4–6, 3–6
Sweden Magnus Norman (4) 7–5, 6–3
Russia Yevgeny Kafelnikov (5) 6–3, 6–4
SF United States Pete Sampras (3) 6–7(5–7), 6–3, 6–4
F United States Andre Agassi (8) 6–4, 6–4, 6–4

After losing his first Round Robin match, Kuerten had to win the tournament in order to finish the year as world n.1 (had he won the first match, a semifinal result would have sufficed).

Masters Series tournaments[edit]

* Kuerten later described this as his best-played tournament, given how many difficult opponents he had to defeat en route to the title. One statistic supports this position: The average ranking of his opponents was 13.16 which was the best of any of his Grand Slam or Masters Series title wins. It is also the best for any Cincinnati champion since the ATP world rankings began in 1973. (The second- and third-best average opponent rankings in Cincinnati were Andre Agassi's 18.16 in 2004, and Patrick Rafter's 18.80 in 1998, although in 1998, Rafter only had to play 5 matches.)

Davis Cup[edit]

Kuerten's Davis Cup record[8]
Total Surface Indoor/Outdoor
Clay Carpet Grass Hard Indoor Outdoor
Won 34 28 6 8 26
Lost 15 8 5 2 5 10

Kuerten was first called to play for Brazil in the Davis Cup in 1996, when he became the second-best ranked player in the country (to Fernando Meligeni). Since then, Kuerten has always answered the invitations to play, claiming that it was a unique opportunity to represent his country.

In the 1999 and 2000 seasons, Kuerten took criticism from his fans, who accused him of not giving 100% in the Davis Cup matches. They claimed he was more concerned with sparing his energy for the ATP tournaments. At one point, Kuerten interrupted a match to argue with a fan who had shouted out for him to apply himself to the match at hand.

In 2004, following the country's unexpected defeat to Canada in the Repechage match, and the country's demotion to the American Group I after having been defeated by Sweden in that year's First Round, discontent with the politics of the Brazilian Tennis Confederation spilled over. Kuerten refused to play for Brazil in the American Group I. The unexpected firing of then captain of the Brazilian team, Ricardo Accioly, was the trigger. Kuerten thought it was an arbitrary decision, since it was made without consulting the players. In his view that was just the last in a sequence of questionable decisions made by organization's board.

All other professional Brazilian players followed Kuerten's lead, as well as the newly appointed captain, former player Jaime Oncins. As a result, Brazil had to play the first round in the Zonal Group with a team made up of junior players (which was only possible after much negotiation, during which time the country was at risk of forfeiting the Round, which would have resulted in automatic demoting to the American Group II), which resulted in a defeat and the possibility of demotion to the American Group II.

The protest continued, and as a result, Brazil had to play the Repechage match again with a junior team, and was demoted to the American Group II for the 2005 season. As of 2005, following the fall of the BTC board in the aftermath of the protest, Kuerten and the other players have decided to return to the team, now captained by former player Fernando Meligeni. Kuerten, however, had to delay his return beyond the end of the players' strike, since his hip injuries kept him off courts between September 2004 and May 2005. He returned in the Tie with the Netherlands Antilles, valid for the Second Round of the American Zonal Group II, which was played in Santa Catarina, Brazil (on clay) between July 15 and July 17, 2005.

Davis Cup results[edit]


American Group I
Round Date Opponents Venue Surface Match Opponent Score
QF February 9–11, 1996  Chile Santiago Clay Doubles (with Jaime Oncins) Rebolledo/Ríos 7–5, 6–3, 4–6, 6–2
SF April 5–7, 1996  Venezuela Santos Clay Singles 2 Nicolas Pereira 6–2, 6–7(2–7), 6–1, 6–2
Singles 4 Jimy Szymanski 6–2, 6–7(6–8), 6–0
World Group
Round Date Opponents Venue Surface Match Opponent Score
QR September 20–22, 1996  Austria São Paulo Hard Singles 2 Markus Hipfl 4–6, 3–6, 7–6(7–0), 7–6(7–5), 6–1
Doubles (with Jaime Oncins) Muster/Plamberger 7–6(7–2), 4–6, 6–3, 3–6, 2–0 def.*

QF – Quarterfinal|SF – Semifinal|QR – Qualifying Round

* During the Doubles match, the star of the Austrian team, Thomas Muster, got angry over what he claimed to be disrespectful Brazilian fans, who were allegedly insulting him from the stands. The match umpire did not recognize his claim, so Muster walked off the court, throwing the match. He then convinced the entire Austrian team to defect the tie, which led to the cancellation of the two singles matches on Sunday and the automatic demotion of Austria to the European Zonal Group I.


  1. ^ "Gustavo Kuerten". Association of Tennis Professionals. Retrieved 11 June 2014. 
  2. ^ – Tennis news from around the world Archived November 10, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ "Report: Brazil's Kuerten to play his last season in 2008 – ',International Herald Tribune',". International Herald Tribune. March 29, 2009. Archived from the original on February 20, 2008. Retrieved May 17, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Kuerten going from the courts to college". USA Today. São Paulo, Brazil. Associated Press. 26 January 2009. 
  5. ^ "Aprovado no vestibular 2009 de teatro da Udesc Guga leva trote de amigos". O Globo (in Portuguese). 27 January 2009. 
  6. ^ "Brazilian Tennis Star Guga Kuerton To Be Inducted in 2012", Tennis Fame, International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, retrieved 15 October 2012 
  7. ^ a b "Opening Ceremony". 2016 Summer Olympics. 5 August 2016. NBC. 
  8. ^ "Player profile – Gustavo KUERTEN (BRA)". Davis Cup. Retrieved May 17, 2011. 


Further reading[edit]

  • Gustavo Kuerten e Roland Garros: uma História de Amor. Instituto Takano. 2002. ISBN 85-902671-1-3. 
  • Tênis no Brasil: de Maria Esther Bueno a Gustavo Kuerten, O. Codex. 2004. ISBN 85-7594-031-7. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Brazilian Sportsmen of the Year
1999, 2000
Succeeded by
Robert Scheidt