Around the World with the Tennis Hall of Fame
Last month, the International Tennis Hall of Fame traveled to Rio de Janeiro to share a piece of tennis history with fans and players in Brazil. The Hall of Fame’s 21-panel exhibit, which features the history of Tennis in the Olympic Games was on-site for all to view throughout the Rio Open.
Prior to landing in Brazil, this exhibit had been showcased at the 2012 US Open, in the Barcelona Olympic Museum where the panels were translated into Spanish and Catalan and at the Richmond Olympic Experience where the 2010 Vancouver Games were held. In case you missed our previous blog post, you can check out the exhibit here.
For its stay in Brazil, two panels were added celebrating two game-changing Brazilian Hall of Famers; Guga Kuerten and Maria Esther Bueno. We were lucky enough to catch up with Maria at our exhibit and watch Guga receive the ultimate honor when the Rio Open renamed its centre court “Quadra Guga Kuerten”. (Watch the video of this on-court presentation here)
Check out this video on both of these Brazilian Hall of Famers and keep reading to learn more!
Almost overflowing with panache and originality, entirely comfortable in his own skin, a champion of the human spirit, Gustavo “Guga” Kuerten carved out quite a niche for himself in his profession. With his uncommonly bright attire, shot making genius, dynamic personality and point playing creativity, Kuerten had it all. But there was more to Kuerten than the sum of his parts. The Brazilian was a natural showman, and an immensely appealing fellow who connected unfailingly with the public.
He started playing tennis at age six and had a productive junior career, including winning the French Open junior doubles title in 1994. He turned pro in 1995, and then exploded into greatness two years later, becoming the first Brazilian to capture the French Open in 1997 with an astonishing collection of victories over former champions Thomas Muster, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Sergi Bruguera. Kuerten approached that tournament ranked No. 66 in the world; he came away from Roland Garros altered irrevocably, a player of lasting importance and universal appeal.
Kuerten would secure two more French Open crowns in the ensuing years, taking the championships in 2000 and 2001. He would conclude 2000 as the No. 1 ranked player in tennis, sealing that lofty honor with back-to-back semifinal and final round triumphs over Sampras and Agassi at the Tennis Masters Cup in Lisbon. Kuerten concluded 2001 at No. 2 in the world. At age 25, he had several years of sublime tennis ahead of him, but he needed arthroscopic right hip surgery in 2002, and was never quite the same player again. The fact remains that Kuerten had much to celebrate in a standout career including a fan following that few champions would ever match.
MARIA ESTHER BUENO
Brazilian Maria Bueno was an artist on the tennis court. Her fluidity of stroke and deft touch played a large part in her enjoying success at all levels of the game, including achieving a Grand Slam in women’s doubles with two different partners.
In Australia, Bueno teamed with Christine Truman, and they waltzed to the final where they met Lorraine Coughlan Robinson and Margaret Smith. The young Smith showed glimpses of the player she would become, but Bueno and Truman took advantage of their opponents’ inexperience to win in three sets.
In Paris, Bueno partnered with Darlene Hard to form one of the top women’s doubles teams of all time. They barely broke a sweat in taking the title on the terra butte before heading to Wimbledon.
Winning Wimbledon would prove as easy as taking the title at Roland Garros. Before the conclusion of the Wimbledon fortnight, however, Bueno would all but accuse Hard of gamesmanship when the two competed against each other in the Mixed Doubles final, where Bueno came out on the losing end. She was so furious with Hard that she told the papers she would never team with her again.
Amazingly, Bueno and Hard put their differences aside and partnered for the U.S. Nationals. If there was any resentment between the two, it failed to filter into their game, as they proved more dominant than ever in storming to the title, taking the final match in just 26 minutes! Maria Bueno had truly overcome it all in an effort to seal her place in the history books.
This month, we’ll be traveling to the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, CA. Stay tuned next month for a recap of an exciting on-court ring presentation celebrating Lindsay Davenport!