Guga – the value of looseness.

There are so many admirable qualities to former no. 1 Brazilian Tennis player, Gustavo Kuerten, that it’s hard to know where to begin. Re. the specifics of his game, I remember an L.A. Open match under the Flood-lights against Agassi in the early 2000’s. It remains to this day, the best pro-match I have ever seen – even Serena Williams, sitting just in front of me, & flush from her victory at Wimbledon, was on her feet numerous times, applauding the virtuosity of the respective shot-making. But for me, it was all about Guga. I remember thinking this is the way I’ve always wanted to play tennis. The looseness of his grip, allowing a fluid follow-through on his groundies; the way he got close to he ball, like all good players waiting a little longer before accelerating into and through the contact; the “sneaky” fast-service, again based on timing his acceleration at just the right time (hitting elbow up, hitting hand just past his right ear before snapping into the ball) & all with a beautiful, languid follow-through. By contrast, Agassi looked to be muscling the ball on all of his strokes. Everything Andre did looked mechanical :Force was being applied by resistance to or at the ball as opposed to Guga, where Force was being released via turning & lifting the ball. Interestingly, even the partisan crowd started to recognize this; whilst a winner from Agassi was greeted with a kind of Beery, Frat-boy yell, when Guga looped a trade-mark back-hand winner down-the-line, there were spontaneous murmurs & gasps of admiration and pleasure from the crowd, stunned that force could be applied so beautifully.

This is no dig at Andre – there was so much to admire about his game: his amazingly quiet eye; the head stillness; taking the ball on the rise from the return of the serve onwards & his committed conditioning etc. Nevertheless, I felt & continue to feel more of a connection to Guga’s way.

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