Last month, the International Tennis Hall of Fame (ITHF) had a chance to catch up with one of our Global Ambassadors, Gustavo “Guga” Kuerten, in his native Brazil where he has a legion of adoring fans. This admiration not only stems from his charismatic personality and philanthropic work, but also from his remarkable accomplishments in tennis, notably, having been the only South American man in tennis history to reach world No. 1, and winning three French Open titles (1997, 2000, and 2001). In 2012, Kuerten was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in recognition of his many achievements and contributions to the sport. This year, Kuerten strengthened his involvement with the organization by accepting the role of Global Ambassador for the ITHF. Through this appointment, he plays an active role in the Hall of Fame's efforts to preserve and promote tennis history and engage the global tennis community.
In addition, Kuerten is highly engaged in philanthropic work through his foundation - the Guga Kuerten Institute (IGK). Inspired by his mother, a social worker, and his late brother, Guilherme, who suffered from cerebral palsy, Kuerten always wanted to ensure opportunities for people through sport. Kuerten explained that “the IGK’s role is to promote opportunities and improve the self-esteem of children and people with disabilities so that they are fully able to exercise citizenship.” He continued, “My tennis career was the boost to set up the IGK, which is extremely gratifying work that I am proud to fulfill.”
Most recently, the IGK hosted the 8th annual Semana Guga Kuerten (Guga Kuerten Week) – the largest junior tennis event in the world. It consisted of 11 days of competition that included a junior ITF tournament, an adult wheelchair tennis tournament, and an adult beach tennis tournament. In all, the event brought together more than 1,600 athletes from 10 countries. The International Tennis Hall of Fame took part in the festivities by working with Guga to create an exhibit about his career accomplishments and legacy within the sport, exposing the 58,000 fans in attendance to Kuerten’s career highlights. During the week, Kuerten visited the exhibit to reminisce on the featured accomplishments. The following excerpts from the conversation with the champion provided personal insight into the defining moments of his professional career.