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  Sunday, 10 June, 2001, 18:52 GMT 19:52 UK
Kuerten's French affair continues
Gustavo Kuerten
Gustavo Kuerten clinches his third Roland Garros title
By BBC Sport Online's Alex Perry at Roland Garros

Gustavo Kuerten beat Alex Corretja in the French Open final and then drew a heart in the clay to show the Parisian fans how much he loves playing at Roland Garros.

It was a repeat of the trick he pulled after coming back from match point down in the last 16 against Michael Russell.

With his 6-7 7-5 6-2 6-0 triumph, he became the first man since Adriano Panatta 25 years ago to win the title after coming so perilously close to defeat.

It also completed a hat-trick of wins at Roland Garros, putting him on a par with the likes of Renee Lacoste, Mats Wilander and Ivan Lendl.

"Every single time I come here it's special - for me it's a special tournament," said Kuerten. "It's a place I love to be.

"Sometimes I feel like I'm playing in my home town, in my club."

Not happy with his artwork on the clay, Kuerten then revealed a t-shirt with "I love Roland Garros" emblazoned across it in thick marker pen.

Asked to sum up his feelings in one word, Guga plumped for "magic".

Tribute

For Corretja, it was his second defeat in the final at Roland Garros, and there was no hiding his disappointment.

But he was able to put the defeat in perspective.

"There are moments in your career that are much worse then losing a Grand Slam final," said the Spaniard.

"I've been feeling much worse when I've been playing terrible, and I don't feel that I played terrible today," he added.

Alex Corretja
Corretja made Kuerten work hard for three sets
And he was big enough to pay tribute to the man who had handed him such a crushing defeat.

"On clay he's shown that he's the best," Corretja said of his Brazilian opponent.

"And he showed in Lisbon on a fast surface when he won the Masters Cup that he can play well anywhere - he's got nothing to prove."

But it was no walkover, and after claiming the first set on a tie-break, Corretja had a chance to break Kuerten at 5-5 in the second set, but was unable to take it.

Aggressive

"He missed a backhand down the line at break point and I think that point could have changed things if he had won it," said Kuerten.

"After that I started to play so aggressive that I put him under pressure."

Kuerten compounded the Spaniard's missed opportunity by breaking his serve in the very next game, and from there the match turned.

"When he plays like he did in the last two sets it's very difficult," said Corretja.

"I think I still had a chance after I lost the second set, but after I lost the third set I lost my focus, I lost my game."

Kuerten finally paid tribute to his coach Larri Passos and his family for their support.

"I don't see how I could do all this by myself," he said.

"All the time I talk about me and my family and him together - what I do represents all of us."

With age on his side, Kuerten's love affair with Roland Garros may still have many years to run.

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