Gustavo Kuerten bowed out of tennis at the French Open on Sunday with an aching hip, a beaming smile on his face and a
host of powerful Parisian memories.
Three-times winner of the Grand Slam tournament (1997, 2000 and 2001) the 31-year-old Brazilian endured more pain from the hip injury that cut him down in his prime before losing in straight sets to Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu.
But it was the good times when he reigned as the King of Clay that will remain foremost in his mind.
"I guess I had tough moments, but I think that's part of life too," he said.
"It was always going to be sooner or later it's going to finish for me. Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, everybody, one day it's going to stop.
"One stage of my career was very successful, and I was able to get all the goals that I could. Then the second part was really tough."
It was immediately after his third triumph at Roland Garros in 2001 that the injury nightmare started for Kuerten.
He tried resting the dodgy hip, eventually went under the surgeon's knife, but nothing seemed to work.
Finally at the start of this year, he took the gut-wrenching decision that it was over and he immediately pencilled in his farewell for late May and the claycourts of Paris, the stage of his greatest triumphs.
"This tournament was the most special and the most motivating that kept me going, like my love, my heart and everything," he said.
"I always had some emotion going on. Good connection with the crowd too. This particular tournament is really like home for me."
Kuerten's farewell drew a capacity crowd on the Philippe Chatrier centre-court, with Brazilian flags and colours prominent among the crowd and even though he lost he still held aloft a trophy at the end.
In tribute to his career and 44 games he played at Roland Garros, French Tennis Federation chief Christian Bimes presented the former world No.1 with a glass-encased geological profile of a clay-court which Kuerten held aloft before leaving to a standing ovation.
He still plans on playing the doubles this year with Frenchman Sebastien Grosjean, but already his thoughts are turning to the future.
"It's probably time to have more priorities for my personal life," he said. "Get myself more structure, have time to think about it, to rest a little bit.
"That's probably now an adaptation that I have to do. Rest for a little bit, but also I like to be active doing something. So maybe around tennis and my foundation, I will find nice things to do."
Final word to Mathieu, the last man to play Kuerten at Roland Garros.
"It was really something special," he said.
"It was like playing in a final. Everyone was shouting support for Guga. If I could have done so I would have done the same. I don't think I will ever play another match quite like that, that's for sure."



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