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Rediff.com  » Sports » Kuerten bids farewell to Roland Garros

Kuerten bids farewell to Roland Garros

May 26, 2008 11:23 IST

Gustavo Kuerten's French Open career came to an emotional end on Sunday when he lost 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 to Paul-Henri Mathieu in the first round of the tournament that made his name.

- Special: Kuerten ends Paris love affair

The former three-times Roland Garros champion, 1,141st in the world after a series of hip problems, could not hold back the tears at the end of the match.

"Here is my life, my passion and my love," Kuerten told the crowd after being presented with a slice of clay court by the president of the French federation.

"It's great to be here with my family, my coach. But the most important (thing) is the love you gave me."

- Images from Day 1

Kuerten has said the French Open would be the last tournament of his farewell tour that started in Costa Do Sauipe, Brazil, in February.

A winner at Roland Garros in 1997, 2000 and 2001, Kuerten arrived in Paris having won only one match this season in his hometown of Florianopolis.

Kuerten received a standing ovation when he stepped on to Centre Court, with Brazilian flags and thank-you banners waved in the stands.

The wiry Brazilian was already groaning by the end of the warm-up, however, and could not match Mathieu's power and pace.

Kuerten, who had drawn a heart with his racket on the court following his third Paris title, gave his all on the red dust.

Although he dropped serve only once in the first set, Guga did not have a single break point on Mathieu's serve.

In the second set it looked like Mathieu, who often crumbles under pressure, might struggle when Kuerten had his first break point to level at 4-4.

The elegant Kuerten delighted the nostalgic crowd with a backhand winner but paid for his effort in the next game and handed Mathieu the set.

He then called for treatment on a lower back problem and in spite of the pain, managed a series of broad smiles.

The match turned into an exhibition, with Kuerten coming behind Mathieu at the change of ends before the last game, jokingly wrapping his racket round the Frenchman's neck in front of an enthusiastic crowd.

He saved a first match point with a fine crosscourt forehand passing shot but could not stave off the second, his drop shot ending into the net.

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