Kuerten sambas to Paris triumph

An astonishing French Open drew to a close here in Paris last evening with Bjorn Borg handing the Coupe des Mousquetaires to the unseeded Gustavo "Guga" Kuerten, a player barely known outside the Brazilian resort of Florianopolis a fortnight ago.

But it was certainly not a case of Who's Who and Who Cares. The 20-year- old Kuerten, whose brilliance frustrated the No 16 seed Sergi Bruguera, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, in an hour and 50 minutes, captured the imagination as well as the majority of the points.

Rarely has a fresh new personality risen to so spectacularly in a sport which craves characters. Tall, lithe and downright scruffy in terms of sartorial tennis tradition, Kuerten overcame the past three champions, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Thomas Muster and Bruguera, en route to the pounds 400,000 winner's cheque and overnight fame.

A small group of supporters began a samba around the grounds here which will be copied throughout Brazil in honour of the first man from the nation to win a Grand Slam singles title.

When Maria Bueno won the first of her three Wimbledon titles in 1959, a stamp was issued in her honour. The aircraft taking her back to Sao Paulo was diverted because of a storm, but when she finally arrived after midnight, all the lights in the city's buildings were switched on to greet her.

Florianopolis will have to wait for Kuerten, who is due to play another clay court tournament in Bologna this week before setting foot on grass courts for the first time as a professional in Nottingham the week prior to Wimbledon.

Kuerten could be in line for a seeding at the All England Club. His ranking is likely to be as high as No 16 today, a mighty leap since his arrival in Paris as the world No 66. Only one man ranked lower has won a Grand Slam singles title, Mark Edmondson, No 212 at the 1976 Australian Open.

Whether Wimbledon sways to the samba remains to be seen. Kuerten will certainly have to dress in a more subdued manner than his yellow and blue (shoes and all) outfits which caused the President of the French Tennis Federation, Christian Bimes, to comment: "We don't want these guys dressing like soccer players".

For yesterday's presentation, Bimes was accompanied by Borg and the great Argentinian Guillermo Vilas, who handed the runner-up trophy to Bruguera. As Kuerten lifted the cup, he could have been one of those lanky midfielders from the Copacobana, or the Mansfield Town captain on a very good day.

Kuerten enjoyed every moment and thoroughly deserved the acclaim. A first- round loser last year, his reputation grew and grew from the moment he recovered from 0-3 in the fifth set to defeat Muster in the third round.

That was followed by consecutive five-setters against the Ukrainian Andrei Medvedev and Kafelnikov, the Russian defending champion. A four-set victory against Filip Dewulf, a Belgian qualifier, elevated Kuerten to yesterday's confrontation with Bruguera, the champion in 1993 and 1994.

The Spaniard has proved himself capable of rallying all day with anyone unwise enough to take him on at his own heavy topspin game, and Kuerten endeavoured to shorten the points with the accuracy of his serve and by winning groundstrokes delivered at precise angles to the corners or down the lines.

He broke Bruguera twice in the opening set, which flashed by in 28 minutes, and had conceded a total of only four points on his own serve in stretching his lead to a set and 3-1.

It was then that Bruguera's relentless pounding began to make an impression. Although Kuerten saved the first break point against his name with a smash, his touch failed him for once on a drop shot, and he was broken to 3-2.

The battling Bruguera survived four break points in the sixth game of the set and created three further opportunites in the 10th, only for Kuerten to hold on and then break for a two-set lead.

Kuerten had to do most of the defending early in the third set, fending off four break points before Bruguera began to look shaky again after double-faulting on a game point in the sixth game. The Brazilian took advantage, breaking for 4-2 and against on his first match point, luring the Spaniard into netting a backhand.

"I never won a title [before]," Kuerten said, apologising for making a bit of a mess of the celebratory bubbly. "That's why I don't know how to open champagne." He seems to be a quick learner.

Few among Kuerten's vociferous supporters enjoyed the occasion here more than his German grandmother, Olga Schlosser, who has studied the form of all the leading players on television since "Guga" started playing and sees herself as his "scout".

Kuerten made special mention of his coach, Larri Passos, whom he regards as a second father. When Kuerten was 10 years old, his father, Aldo, died of a heart attack while umpiring a junior match.

"I will enjoy this night with my family and my coach. I really worked hard with my coach on the mental side of my game. He told me I would win against every player, and I really started to put this in my mind," the champion said.

"I think I can improve a lot in my game. I'm getting pretty solid from the baseline. Maybe I can go a little bit more for the net."

If he is able to translate his skills on the faster courts, the sport will be well blessed.

n Tim Henman and the world's top two men, Pete Sampras and Michael Chang, are among the entrants in a top-class field for the Stella Artois grass court tournament which starts today at Queen's Club, London. Henman, the No 4 seed, and fellow Briton Greg Rusedski begin their singles campaigns tomorrow.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Part Time

£10500 - £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Part Time Accounts Assistant ...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant

£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company supply, install an...

Tradewind Recruitment: Reception Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: An excellent three form entry scho...

The Green Recruitment Company: Commercial Construction Manager

£65000 Per Annum bonus & benefits package: The Green Recruitment Company: The ...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'