Interview with Guga: “Brazil is more individualistic than I’ve ever seen”

Translation of this piece in the Brazilian Lance.

In his personal life, Gustavo Kuerten has every reason to smile easily. Less than a month ago, the three time Roland Garros champion went back to surfing and playing beach tennis. Being able to play sports is something he seeks.

In addition to celebrating 15 years of winning the Masters Cup in Lisbon, on December 4th, a title that led Brazil for the first time to the top of world singles ranking, the former tennis player celebrates another important victory.

Pain, the cruel consequence of being one of the most successful  Brazilian athletes, has decreased considerably in recent months. And it’s allowed Gustavo Kuerten to remain closer to the physical form that led him to be the best in the world for 43 weeks.

At 39 years old, Guga focuses on tennis promotion projects and laments the waste of talent in Brazil, as well as the current political scene in the country. But calls for optimism.

During a busy schedule, he talked to the LANCE! reporter during the inauguration of a Lacoste store, the brand of which he is ambassador, in Rio de Janeiro. During the conversation, he spoke of his recent projects, recalled his career and kept the characteristic critical spirit of his life after tennis.

Question: Who is Guga nowadays? What is his routine and what are his goals?

Tennis is still the foundation of my challenges, but in a different way. Today, my contribution is greater than 15 years ago, when I was the best in the world. We have several initiation projects, academies, tournaments and full contact with the development of the sport. That moves me, because there is much waste of talent in Brazil. The idea is to round up the athletes across the country. The number of potential players who can play with a racquet should be even less than 5%. It’s difficult to have professional and amateur tennis players. That’s what moves me most on a daily basis. I like to get involved with sports and education. I was raised this way and managed a successful career in this universe.

And in your personal life?

In parallel to the projects and partnerships, I spend time with my kids and family. Life is much more controlled now than during my time as an athlete (laughs). Before, we surfed the wave that made by the intensity of the circuit. Today, I can program the series at sea and surf in accordance with the tide, and with a cadence that I plan myself. So I think that my contribution is even higher in order to generate a return with more quality and depth, being at the right time at the right place and thus promote tennis in an interesting way. It is what has been happening in the last ten years with me.

What you do not miss at all from an athlete’s life?

Ah, hotels … packing my suitcase and going to the airport! That was the worst part (laughs). Each week, I had to do it twice. Usually, it was Sunday night, after a final. I came on the same day and on Monday, had to undo everything in another hotel room. I used to wake up confused, thinking the door was on one side, but it was on the other, because I had already changed my room and hadn’t remembered. I went to the wrong floor because I’d been on that floor the week before (laughs). This part of the athlete’s life and for a South American tennis player in particular is very hard. You go out for two or three months, not a week or two. It’s difficult…

How is your body, especially the hip, and what hurts most: the pains of a former athlete today, or the pains from the time you were an athlete?

Thank God I got back to surf three weeks ago. For the first time after a long time, I also came back to play beach tennis. I can hit some balls, but the dialogue with the court is still complicated. It is somewhat frustrating because my physical capacity is limited. But, regarding pain, things are much improved. Hopefully, gradually, my ability to exercise will expand because it is what I like to do. I love to play with my kids, run after them. I went from two, three steps to 15. It was a victory! This year, I made a brutal effort. I spent two or three hours doing exercises and physiotherapy to achieve such a condition.

Do you still have physical therapy?

Yes, constantly. It’s a consequence of my career. Recently, I spoke with Andre Agassi (former American tennis player) by message and he even asked me about the hip. It’s the price we pay for having invested so much and so profoundly to reach the limits of tennis. Sometimes, playing matches is the easiest part. Practice is very hard. In 1997, when people saw me for the first time, there were already thousands of hours on the court making absurd demands on the body. It’s also part of understanding this process. The advantage I have today is having the time for things to happen more tranquilly. If I improve ten meters every year in my performance, it will be good. I will soon be back on the court (laughs).

Do you watch Roger Federer nowadays? What goes on in your mind when you remember the time you played against him?

Federer is an example in all aspects. He has an extraordinary tennis ability. If I have to choose among the top ten in history, he’ll be there. Among the top five, three, two, he will be there too. It must be. It is difficult to define who is the best of all time, because it is unfair to compare. But he’s the guy that will always be considered one of the greatest. He’s a spectacular person, with a special charisma for tennis, a unique kindness, decency and model of conduct. And a guy who was my contemporary! When I see him today, I get the feeling that the circuit is not so far from my path.

You already said you used to stick to a greater challenge to overcome the minor one that was in front of you in the courts and have even given this tip to Thomaz Bellucci.

This applies to life, on a daily basis?

A parameter that I find common between my professional life and now is to have a positive outlook on every aspect. In tennis, it helped me a lot. We already live through so many complicated situations that if I try to see the bad scenario, an avalanche of pessimism comes over me. It works to always look at things very positively. Even my injury. Looking enthusiastically, with hope, facilitates and reduces the negative impact of situations. There are few cases where we really suffer. Sometimes we mourn for bullshit. The difficult thing is to practice it in everyday life, but it’s what I’ve been trying to do (laughs).

The political unrest country currently faces makes you reflect?

I am increasingly convinced that the only way for Brazil to reach a transformation is through education. People tend to think it’s the poorer classes who need it, but our main political figures shows that from largest fortunes often come the worst examples. Education must rinse the country, with decency and respect. People should understand their responsibilities, not just from the aspect of law. Brazil increasingly tries to compress society with laws and obligations to escape crime, diversion, corruption, but does not promote good conduct or decent ways of living. For those who have the conviction that they need to deviate from the straight and narrow and create shortcuts to advance, there will be no law in the world that can stop them. And there’s no money in the world that can build projects with all this going on. So we need to invest in people and think long-term educational projects to have larger ranges of answers.

And the Olympics? It is a response?

We have a positive moment and an interesting result possibility. I believe that Brazil will break the record for medals at the Olympics. But it’s always little. Our achievements are small compared to the opportunities that are there. We are limited by a too drastic and dramatic national scene. You cannot demand that the Olympics work well if the country is not doing well in education, health, infrastructure, safety. The basic requirements have to be the great transformations. Sport, cultures and arts will suffer the same positive interference, but as long as we stay in this mantra to invent laws, do by force and compel people to follow certain rules, things will not work.

What to do in the current scenario?

You have to guide, teach people how to position themselves, to know their rights, obligations and responsibilities. Thus, look for a more collective benefit. I venture to say that Brazil today is more individualistic than ever before. Previously, the country had no money, but it thought more collectively. Today, I see country in more favourable economic condition, but everyone wants it all to themselves. We are infected by a huge lack of public services and good examples coming from the government. People see the differences around them and it’s reflected in their actions. It is sad to see our country suffering all these difficulties and know all the potential that exists in this nation.

After eight years out of professional tennis, you still attract the interest of brands and media. How do you explain you are still a target?

It is still an opportunity to convey values and concepts with which I work such as sports and education. I seek no shortcut or misconduct that leads me to achieve results without merit. I got where I am with effort and discipline. This is an asset and a fundamental background that I need to share. Brands give me that possibility. Because it’s hard! We paddle, row, row and go nowhere. Getting a hug is good (laughs). It is a great challenge. You cannot make a transformation alone, so it is a privilege to count on big brands and deliver a key message to the country today to cultivate persistence in people. We all tend to get tired from the day-to-day and want to throw in the towel. But we must persist and endure the almost unbearable, with the current situation of our country, but we must move on.

His career

World No. 1

Former tennis player led the ATP rankings three times, between December 2000 and November 2001. There were 43 weeks in total, with 30 weeks the most consecutively.

Awards

In 2010, Guga received the Philippe Chatrier Trophy in recognition of the work done by the Guga Kuerten Institute and his three titles at Roland Garros. He also joined Maria Esther Bueno in the tennis Hall of Fame.

Unprecedented feat

Guga is the only player to have beaten American Pete Sampras (semifinal) and Andre Agassi (final) in the same tournament. It was in the Masters Cup in Lisbon (POR) in 2000.

The Goodbye

Guga made his farewell from the courts as an ordinary tennis pro on May 25, 2008, losing in the Roland Garros debut for Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu by 3 sets to love, 6-3, 6-4 6-2.

Olympic involvement

In 2011, Guga was the godfather of Olympic Tennis Project Rio-2016, under the supervision of his former coach Larri Passos. But a year later, the initiative failed after consumed $ 2 million from the federal government and was marked by allegations of irregularities in the use of funds by the Brazilian Tennis Confederation (CBT).

The Surgeries

February / 2002

Guga underwent an arthroscopic surgery on the right side of his hip made by the American doctor Thomas Byrd in Nashville (USA). The goal was to remove the worn cartilage due to an inflammation.

September / 2004

The Brazilian returned to the operating table under the care of Dr. Mark Philippon in Pittsburgh (USA) to treat a bone problem that blocked the movement of the hip and caused pain.

March / 2006

Guga was again operated, this time in Vail (USA), by the same doctor from the previous surgery. The procedure was only revealed last year in his biography.

March / 2013

The former athlete underwent a procedure for implantation of a hip prosthesis in his hometown Florianopolis, due to severe pain.

Translation by Sara Tavares.

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Eduardo Schwank talks injury, comeback, goals

Original source:  http://www.ole.com.ar/tenis/Arranco-cero_0_1348665421.html

“I’m starting from scratch”

Eduardo Schwank will make his comeback at the Villa María Futures Tournament after nine months of inactivity, product of the fractures he suffered on his left arm in a bicycle accident in Gstaad. “I felt like giving up, but I miss the adrenaline of tennis, and I have a lot of energy”, he said to Olé.

His last match was on July 24th 2014, a defeat in doubles with Marcel Granollers in Gstaad, the same place where a few hours later he fell from his bike while training in the mountains, turning his tennis career  into a huge question mark. The fractures on his left arm kept Eduardo Schwank away from a racket for too long… nine months.

“At the beginning I didn’t wanna deal with it. I was pretty depressed, and I was constantly remembering the accident. But everything happens for a reason. Inactivity made me realise the important things. Right now I have a lot of energy, and I really appreciate this return to the courts,” says the 29-year-old while preparing to play the Villa María Future in Córdoba, starting on Monday.

-How are you preparing your comeback?

-I’m feeling better every day, I started to train eight weeks ago, and in the last two weeks I started hitting backhands. I’m lacking competition, but I’ll start with some Futures to get some rhythm. I wont be looking for results, I just want to be fine and feel no pain.

-What is it that you missed the most during this nine months?

-I missed the adrenaline of tennis. I’ve been doing some other activities, but I couldn’t find anything like it. The tension before a match… those things that when you’re on the tour you take naturally, and you don’t really appreciate.

-Do you see the tour differently from the outside?

-Yes. You get used to packing your bags, getting on a plane, living in hotels. You don’t have time for anything else. The first two months without playing went by really slow for me. I miss that too… having your head wrapped around the competition.

What are your targets now? You are starting without ranking in singles…

-If everything goes well in Futures in this country, I’m thinking about traveling to the Challengers in Europe, playing quallies and trying to gain points. That’s the only way to start. When I start getting rhythm I’m dangerous. Results will come as I feel better.

-You turned pro in 2005. Is it hard to set up your mind to start again?

-Yes, it’s like starting a new career. I’m starting from scratch. But I have the support of a team, and I’m also doing this for self-pride, because I want to go back to play ATP tournaments. I know it will take time. But I’m going to do this with more professionalism than I did before.

-How do you stand the daily struggle with the body? Del Potro is living the same thing.

-It’s hard when there’s a retrogression. I was well in December, but then in January I had to have surgery on my elbow, that delayed the comeback and got into my head. Everything fell apart for me when the doctor told me it was going to take four more months. It’s frustrating to not be 100% phisically. It must be really ugly to have to retire from your career because of an injury.

-Did you ever think of quitting tennis?
-Many times. I thought of leaving everything and moving forward with my Academy (Schwank Tennis Center) and having more time for my Fundation (Estar Eduardo Schwank) that keeps opening schools for disabled kids. But I still think that tennis can give me things. I thinl I have a lot of years ahead in my career. [Nowadays] players stay longer on the tour.

-What goals do you still have?
-Tennis gave me more than I ever expected. I’ve done great things in doubles (N: He was a finalist at Roland Garros 2011 with Colombian Juan Sebastian Cabal), but I neglected singles, and that’s something I want to fix. I want to have a good ranking again (48th in the world in June 2010). My head was not 100% at the time.

-Does Davis Cup motivate you? You played some great battles with Nalbandian, and you went to watch the tie against Brazil.

-Yes, that’s one of the main reasons I want to return. I’ve never felt anything quite like representing my country, it’s a huge responsibility and it’s not the same as playing on the tour, mainly when the crowd is in your favour. It’s one of my targets. I hope I can play it, even if it is just once more.

~

Translation by @WTAenespanol

We are not robots: interview with Jerzy Janowicz

Original source:  http://www.sport.pl/tenis/1,64987,17841694,Tenis__Janowicz__Nie_jestesmy_robotami_zaprogramowanymi.html

“We are not robots, programmed to win.”

There’s a saying ‘What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.’ Is that’s how you look at injuries? After another foot problem or – as it happened a year and a half ago and recently – with your spine, do you come back on a court mentally stronger?

I think that when it comes to injuries you can’t say they make you mentally stronger. It’s very frustrating because when an athlete in is in good shape and an injury happens you have to start from scratch. If it’s a prolonged injury, a return to good form can take many weeks. That’s what happened to me, when I had a serious spine injury a year and a half ago  and when I came back, my foot got injured. I couldn’t prepare for the following season and the effects of it affected my whole 2014 season.

In recent years players and experts have noticed an increasing dominance of hard courts on WTA and ATP tours. Some prefer more surface diversity and say that cement puts more demand on the body and because of that causes more injuries. Others believe that a body gets used to a surface and it’s healthier to change it less frequently. What’s your opinion?

To be honest, I prefer diversity. It’s not a problem for me to play on a clay, hard or grass court. What matters to me is if it’s outdoors or indoors. I would like to see more indoor tournaments. Indoor and hard courts – they’re my favourite tournaments.

Do you put great importance to Madrid and Rome or rather – because you’re coming back from an injury – treat them as preparation before Roland Garros? Or maybe do you want the clay season to finish as quickly as possible and can’t wait for the grass season?

All tournaments are equally important to me. Madrid and Rome are very prestigious, with a lot of points to gain, and that’s necessary if you want to advance in the rankings. Of course I’m excited about the grass season, especially that we’ve got one more grass tournament this year– Stuttgart. So the grass season will be a bit longer.

In general, players prefer to play against high-ranked opponents as late as possible. Your mum told me once that you prefer to fight more demanding opponents straight away. Does it help you with motivation?

First rounds of every tournament are difficult, no matter who you have to face. But it’s true, I prefer to play against better opponents. You play on a bigger court, in front of a bigger crowd and stronger support. And I like this kind of atmosphere. It mobilizes me more. But I treat every opponent in the same way and take every match seriously.

Are you superstitious? Some say there is a ‘Hopman Cup curse’. You and Agnieszka Radwańska started the year with a success in that event but right after that she started to have problems with her form. In February you reached a final in Montpelier but had to withdraw from the match because of an illness. Not everything has been to your liking since then…

I don’t believe in superstitions. My bad form in Montpelier was a coincidence, it was an infection that hit me really hard. It could have happened in any place, at any time. As for Agnieszka, she’s been a top player for many years. Maybe she’s going through a rough patch now but it can happen to anybody. We are human, we’re not robots programmed to win. Agnieszka is a very experienced player and she will deal with her problems. It’s a long time to the end of the season.

She has been saying recently that you can’t look at your opponent’s ranking position only, because it’s usually lower than it should be and doesn’t reflect a player’s skills. Do you share this opinion? How important for you is your ranking position?

To be honest, I don’t make any ranking plans before a season starts. I want to win matches and advance in the rankings but I don’t aim for top 20 this year and top ten next year. It will be great if I’m in the top 20 but I won’t despair if it doesn’t happen. Of course, your position in the rankings is important, it allows you to play in a given tournament. But rankings don’t play matches and they don’t determine that a player from the second hundred can’t win with a top 20 player. Life shows that it happens very often. It’s a rivalry and everybody wants to win when they step on a court.

A couple of months ago you were a guest in Turbokozak and got to show your football skills. Are you a football fan? Do you support any particular team? Or maybe you prefer volleyball –  because of your mum, a volleyball player, or your ties with Skra Bełchatów players?

I’m not a football fan and I don’t support any team but I enjoyed being in Turbokozak. I prefer volleyball and I go to see matches if I can. I friendly with Marcin Wlazły. I had an opportunity to play volleyball in a charity match in Częstochowa and I think I did pretty well. I like watching sports, especially with Polish players.

“In my head, everything is fine”: Michaëlla Krajicek

Interview by Fred Buddenberg published in the 18 April 2015 print edition of Dutch daily Trouw (page 24).

“Completely healthy and very happy.”  Michaëlla Krajicek answers a question about how she’s  doing with a big smile.  She knows it has not always been so in her turbulent career.  Now, at age 26, the tennis star has found the peace that she longed for so often on her way to adulthood.

“In my head, everything is fine.”  Krajicek is in Den Bosch, where the Dutch Fed Cup team is competing with Australia for a place in the World Group.  “I’m getting married, I get a lot of support from Richard, and everything with my father is quiet and good.  And that has a positive influence on me.  Also, I’m older now and I look at things differently.”

Since her professional debut in 2003 (!), Krajicek’s career has been erratic, to put it mildly.  Triumphs and tragedies followed in rapid succession, both in sports and on a personal level.  “In life, things sometimes happen on purpose, it seems,” said Krajicek.  “There are maybe one or two things I can blame myself for.”

For example, the choice of Allistair McCaw, the South African conditioning coach with whom she also had a personal relationship.  “That was my own choice, but a very bad one,” says Krajicek about her first ex-boyfriend.  “I was just 19 years old and didn’t really think.  Looking back, I wonder: how stupid can you be?  These are things you need to learn from.  I paid the price.”

That relationship was not good for her tennis and also caused a rift between “Misa” and father Petr, for years his daughter’s coach.  Petr didn’t hide his distaste for McCaw.  After Krajicek’s elimination at Roland Garros in 2008, he called him a “tennis-illiterate.”  It was a difficult time for Krajicek, with one foot on the threshold to adulthood.  “My father was always so close to me, and from one day to the next, he was no longer there.  For example, during training—all of a sudden, everything was different.  He meant well, but it should have gone differently.  It was also my own stubbornness.”   She laughs, “Yes, stubbornness runs in the family.”

“I have had two periods, when I thought: ‘I’m done with it.’  Because of a lack of results.  It wasn’t because I didn’t like tennis.  I was also often asked if I still had goals, why I didn’t retire.  But tennis is my sport and I feel I have achieved a lot.”

With her mind at rest, Krajicek decided to give her singles career another serious chance.  In recent years, she was mainly active as a doubles player, and not without success.  With Czech Barbora Strychova, she is now ranked 15th on the WTA doubles list of 2015.  Yet she also wants to continue on her own, as she thinks she isn’t finished yet.

“I think I still have a lot to prove to myself.  I still believe in it, and my knee is currently quite good.  The ultimate goal is to improve my best ranking, but that is still very far.  I have done a lot to get much fitter: for instance, with my diet and by getting a new fitness coach, James Fitzpatrick.  I’m excited.”

Krajicek has three single titles, reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2007, and had a career-high ranking of 30 in February 2008.  Last week in Dijon, she got back to playing singles again after an long time ranked 441 (!).  “As I don’t like to play on clay, I’ll mostly play doubles until Roland Garros.  After that, I will really focus on singles.”

An important detail in Krajicek’s return is whether the body can last.  Two ankle and three knee surgeries didn’t do her career any good.  “At the end of last year, I was treated with blood plasma,” Krajicek said.  “Your blood goes into a machine and is then transferred to the knee.  It worked perfectly and now my knee feels very good.  I can’t complain—and let’s hope it stays that way.”

“After my last knee surgery in 2012, a doctor said I had a forty percent chance I would again walk without pain.  Sometimes I watch old videos of me exercising in the water.  I just had to stand on that leg and I couldn’t—that’s how bad it was.  Anyone can say anything, but I have shown that I have the willpower.  Even my father, who is always very strict and criticizes everything, is proud that I persist.”

~

Translated by Nicole Lucas.