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Kuerten Honoured In Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Gustavo Kuerten was honoured at the Rio Open presented by Claro hdtv on Thursday. Guga received a commemorative plaque from World No. 1 Rafael Nadal, before a ball boy and a ball girl repeated the gesture immortalised by Kuerten after a 2001 Roland Garros fourth round match. The children drew a heart around the Florianopolis resident and the three lay down on the clay court much to the delight of the capacity crowd.

Thirteen years ago, Kuerten fought back from two sets down and a 3-5 deficit to beat Russell 3-6, 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-1. Inspired by the performance, Kuerten went on to lift his third Roland Garros title by beating Alex Corretja in the final. 

Kuerten, who retired from professional tennis in 2008, was moved by the presentation. “I have just thought about exchanging a few rallies with Nadal, but I was very emotional and forgot to ask him,” said Kuerten. “It is amazing to be honoured in my country. Thank you, Rafa, for making this moment even more special. It is a privilege to be embraced by hundreds of people at the same time. It was a very good sensation [and] unforgettable. That motivates me to contribute more to tennis, to give back all the affection.”

Kuerten came on to Center Court after Nadal’s 6-1, 6-2 win over fellow Spaniard Albert Montanes. Nadal said, “Guga is one of the best players I have seen on clay. If we had played a match, it would have been really interesting. He did something very difficult, to be the first in a country to do something [be No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, win Roland Garros and the 2001 Tennis Masters Cup – now named Barclays ATP World Tour Finals].

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