Guga spoke about the power of our memories over the course of our lives and told us some of his, from his childhood in Florianópolis to his great victories in the 1990s and 2000s. He spoke of some vivid memories, such as victories in important games and the sleepless nights before them, full of expectations and anxiety. Kuerten chose three stories to share with us: his first time at Roland Garros in 1992, at the age of fifteen; the period in which he tried to participate in professional tournaments in Portugal in 1994, when he was almost eighteen years old, and – perhaps the strongest and oldest memory – his father’s death (when Guga was only eight years old, in the 1980s).
At Roland Garros, a discovery. Roland Garros reminds him of his teenage expectations, which were almost destroyed by a missed opportunity, but rebuilt through Guga’s narrative: durring his first visit to Paris, he wanted to play in one of the tennis clubs in the city during the time of a tournament. But to achieve this, he had to be selected among hundreds of boys with the same dream. On the day, Guga did not win and the dream of the fifteen-year-old boy collapsed. But a few days later, still during the same trip, he had the opportunity to visit the Roland Garros stadium. With the help and good humor of his companions from is trip, Kuerten was able to feel the environment of a world tournament on two different days. It was crowded and he looked at everything and was delighted. Guga said that he was so happy that he could see great players in action and bring that memory home. But two unlikely victories by Brazilians that happened exactly on the days he was there gave him strength and a somewhat naive certainty that he had acted as a lucky charm and supported the victory of those Brazilian tennis players.
Looking back, Guga now sees that being there helped him realize it was possible. Until then he used to play with few people – most of them his own family members – on the courts of Santa Catarina, and the opportunity of being exposed to such a world event, the crowded stadium, the thousands of people involved in a game, it was enough to show him a new perspective. At that moment, the young athlete realized that tennis was more than a sport as it also involved so many people. Thanks to a situation that happened by accident, opportunities, and internal decisions, the frustration of his first day in Paris was immediately changed by the certainty that he would never again lose an opportunity to participate in a competition.
In Portugal, his career construction. In Portugal at our event, Guga remembered 1994, when he was only 17 years old, and had traveled there. He was already one of the best in the world in youth tennis, and he would become a professional player by the time he was 18. As a professional player, he would be just like any other player. It looked as if the efforts meant nothing without any achievement in this new phase of life.
In those months in Portugal, Guga was scared, anxious, and full of expectations about his future. In his first professional tournament, he spent one month to score a single point.
During this phase, a new relationship made all the difference: the player became close to Braga, an entrepreneur who supported the Brazilian sport and lived in Portugal. With help from his new friend, Guga progressed to the next stages and finally won his first professional tournament. There weren’t many people at the game, but the presence of Braga made all the difference.
In Curitiba, a lesson he’ll never forget. The strongest and most decisive memory for Guga is from a tennis tournament he played when he was 8 years old in Curitiba. Despite his father’s constant encouragement, he was the weakest boy in the tournament. He was there just for fun – and lost. His father went with him, but didn’t come back home again as he died of a sudden heart attack during the trip. His father died when he was still very young yet transferred to his son much more than his passion for tennis; he taught him the ability to dream and believe in his dreams. In a time when tennis was not very popular in Brazil, his father Aldo Kuerten was already sure his son would be a champion. Today, Guga realizes that his father didn’t have a dream; it was most certainly a great conviction.
A strong image remains in Gustavo Kuerten’s mind from those days after his father’s death when his mother, and receiving the children back home with a hug, saying: “We will move on.” A few days before his father died, that was exactly the mission Aldo gave Guga’s older brother: take care of Guga and his future as a tennis player, guide him and help him move on.
What does Guga Kuerten share with his stories? For him, our memories build us. When we recall each of our experiences, we can see our internal gears, with marks, links, and relations that make them strong. But it depends on what we decide to do with them. Gustavo learned new abilities and became stronger with them. He went through so much in his personal and professional life that it helped him face an opponent and think, in his own words: “I’ve been through all this, you’re not going to beat me; anything can happen, but today is my day. I’m the one who’s better prepared here, I’ve lived all this. And I’m going to leave here as the winner.” It’s not just about the internal connections we have with our memories. Guga also raised a further point: the connection with other people. He recalled that once, during an important game, his brother called him from the audience and encouraged him, asking if he would give up or would carry on all the way to the end. At that moment, Guga connected with the thousands of people who watched him from the audience and other thousands of fans who believed in him and were watching the game on TV worldwide. He then felt his responsibility in the situation. From that moment on, Guga was no longer alone against his opponent. He became Guga plus thousands of people against one. That was him and everything his father had given him until then. He received an avalanche of strength and energy. And he chose to go all the way to the end.
What summaries all achievements in Guga’s career? We can say it’s his search for connections. When warming up, he was not only preparing physically. In each step before a game, Guga sought deep inside and in his story the strength that made him feel the best player in the world, at least in the next few hours. Today, the tennis player understands that every new challenge in his life was not actually new, he had been prepared for every new experience he would have.
It’s not just about the games and the physical training, it also includes the great and small life experiences that build a champion. This champion is ready and available within each one of us. How can we find it? Paying attention to our story and relationships we’ve had so far. Great victories are always possible with the support from our life experiences. At the right moment, all connections and relationships within us are brought to the surface. Just pay attention to them and invoke them.