Sunday, May 25, 2008
As yet untitled
For a change, it was a gorgeous day in Pittsburgh. It's the kind of day I've been waiting for, perfect for a tennis marathon. But I was glued to the television.
And I admit, I was crying. It was hard to watch Gustavo Kuerten play his last professional match at the French Open.
If you don't know Guga's story, here it is in a nutshell. He was born in a small town in Brazil called Florianapolis, and began playing tennis as a boy. His father died when he was 8 of a heart attack while umpiring a tennis match. His younger brother suffered from mental retardation and eventually died in 2007. Guga himself went on to have a successful pro career, winning three French Open titles and becoming world No. 1. Does anyone else remember the year-ending tournament in 2000, where he beat Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi back-to-back to gain that number one ranking. Not on clay, either, but indoors.
And then there's the hair. I'm going to try to forget about that close-cropped crap he went with for a while there. That wild, curly 'do defined Guga's carefree attitude on court. You couldn't not root for that smile he wore, no matter what was happening. Even when hip problems made it impossible for him to play to his potential.
There he was again on Sunday, making his face smile, when his heart must have been caving in on itself, knowing that if it weren't for that hip, he could take Paul-Henri Mathieu to school. And I'm sorry, but that's not fair. I don't know Gustavo Kuerten, but there aren't a lot of people who radiate joy whenever you see them. Those few people don't deserve to have their careers ended by circumstances beyond their control. Some people deserve to ride it out on their terms.
Regardless, there Guga was on center court, crying and smiling at the same time, finding joy in tough times. With all he's been through, there have been tougher times for him, and he certainly has been blessed with a successful career and a safe place in tennis lore. True, tennis is just a game, but it's just that something should go Kuerten's way.
I can't think of a better example of someone making lemon out of lemonade. Here's hoping life gives Guga a little something sweeter.