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  Saturday, 20 July, 2002, 19:09 GMT 20:09 UK
Kuerten the comeback king
Gustavo Kuerten
It's Kuerten's: Can the resilient Brazilian do it again?
If anyone wants to know what it takes to win at Roland Garros they need only look at last year's champion and the current king of clay, Brazil's Gustavo Kuerten.

At 6ft 3ins and just over 12 stone, Kuerten looks a gangly and frail figure as he pounds away from the baseline.

But don't be taken in. Last year he won the hard way in Paris, coming back from the edge of defeat in the quarter-finals against Yevgeny Kafelnikov and the semis against Juan Carlos Ferrero.

The final against a subdued Magnus Norman was a more straightforward affair. Or that was the way it seemed to be heading when Kuerten, leading two sets to one, reached match point.

Kuerten served and Norman returned cross court. The Brazilian was convinced the ball was out and started to stride towards the net with his hands in the air.

Gustavo Kuerten makes it through to the French Open final
The 2000 final lay ahead, and with it plenty of drama

But the smile was wiped from his face when he saw umpire Francois Pareau climbing out of his seat and towards the mark.

Unlike on hard courts and grass, the ball leaves a mark on clay and an umpire will frequently descend from his perch to confirm a call.

This Pareau did, and gave the ball in. The match suddenly erupted into life. Over the next 45 minutes Norman, incredibly, saved another 10 match points.

Whenever Kuerten went near the spot where that first return had landed, he glowered at it.

"Every time I passed that line from then on I saw that mark. It drove me crazy," he said afterwards.

But he was not to be denied, finally coming through 6-2 6-3 2-6 7-6 for his second French title, the first coming in 1997.

Back then, he was the first Brazilian to win one of the four Grand Slam championships.

Kuerten adjusts his bandana
Kuerten struggles to create a comfort zone

He was only the third unseeded player to win a Grand Slam, and only one has ever won one from a lower rank than Kuerten's then-position of 66.

But there's a lot more to Kuerten than numbers. His topspin backhand is one of the great shots of the modern game.

Although most at home on clay he has proved he can play on all surfaces, reaching the quarter-finals of both Wimbledon and the US Open in 1999.

Along with Marat Safin and Lleyton Hewitt, Kuerten is one of the key figures being pushed by the ATP to see the professional game beyond the retirement of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.

Although at 24, Kuerten is hardly a newcomer, he proved his credentials by blasting Agassi off the court when the pair met in the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup final in Lisbon last December.

That result meant Kuerten ended the year as world number one.

In 2001, tournament victories in Buenos Aires, Acapulco and Monte Carlo show he has kept up his pace and that he is certainly the man to beat in Paris.

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