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Novak Djokovic to Gustavo Kuerten: "I had 3 of the best days of my life playing in Rio"

Gustavo Kuerten (left) with Novak Djokovic
Gustavo Kuerten (left) with Novak Djokovic
ANALYST
Modified 25 May 2020, 11:40 IST
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Gustavo Kuerten spoke with World No. 1 Novak Djokovic earlier this week as part of a promotion for his "Vencendo Juntos" programme (which translates to "Winning Together" in English).

Gustavo Kuerten and a few other Brazilian athletes have come together to try and raise 10 million Brazilian Real, which would go towards helping 35,000 Brazilian families affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. In this regard, Novak Djokovic, along with Roger Federer, have agreed to show their support for the initiative.

With two of the greatest players in tennis history joining Kuerten's campaign, the first night of Vencendo Juntos saw almost three million Brazilian real being raised.

During the conversation, Kuerten talked about the 'hard' experience of life in Brazil in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic:

"I discovered living with the family, several learnings. My daughter [Maria Augusta] summed it up well: the hard part is out there. We can feel people's sadness, the real challenges. The reality is on the streets, on the corners, all over Brazil. But it is maintaining confidence. Hope, faith, discipline and respect will be decisive now, said Kuerten."

Novak Djokovic looks back at his experiences in Rio with Gustavo Kuerten

Novak Djokovic with Gustavo Kuerten
Novak Djokovic with Gustavo Kuerten

During his interaction with the three-time Roland Garros champion, Novak Djokovic reminisced about his time in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, when he played an exhibition match. The World No. 1 said that he spent the 'three best days' of his life in the Brazilian city.

"I remember the day we played at Maracanazinho. I remember Rio well. I remember well, it was three of the best days of my life."
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Novak Djokovic further said in this regard that he would like to visit the 'Marvellous' city to play another exhibition match with Kuerten.

Of course, Djokovic did visit the city a little later too, for the 2016 Olympics. That was a considerably less happy experience for the Serb though, as he lost to Juan Martin del Potro in the first round and then shed 'the greatest tears' he has ever shed.

Novak Djokovic's 'three days in Rio'

Novak Djokovic with Gustavo Kuerten in Rio de Janeiro in 2012
Novak Djokovic with Gustavo Kuerten in Rio de Janeiro in 2012

Novak Djokovic had visited Rio de Janeiro in November 2012 for the opening of a tennis court in the Rocinha part of the city, one of South America's largest slums.

The then 25-year-old, fresh off his win over defending champion Roger Federer at the season-ending ATP Finals in London, played an exhibition match with Gustavo Kuerten in Rio's Maracanazinho stadium.

Novak Djokovic during his exhibition match with Gustavo Kuerten in 2012
Novak Djokovic during his exhibition match with Gustavo Kuerten in 2012

Kuerten won the match 7-6 (9) 7-5, with around 10,000 raucous fans in the packed stadium cheering him on wildly.

The then 36-year-old Brazilian showed his appreciation to the home fans after the win by drawing a love heart on the clay surface, just as he did after winning his third French Open title in 2001. Djokovic also won the affection of the fans by dancing and impersonating the Brazilian player by wearing a curly-haired wig.

"I'll not be able to move for days," said Kuerten, who had retired four years earlier due to a chronic hip injury."

Kuerten then thanked Novak Djokovic for being able to relive the enjoyment of a win.

"The victory is important but the most important thing is to be enjoying this moment with Novak because I thought I would never relive this type of experience after my injuries. I can't thank Novak enough. He is aware of the impact he can make as a person and is a really special guy."

Novak Djokovic returned the compliment by saying that Kuerten was a special player who enriched the sport with his presence.

"Guga (Kuerten) is one of the most charismatic players to have been involved in tennis and today he showed why. Brazilian tennis has a great spirit and big soul. Serbia is a small country but it has a lot in common with Brazil. We are very emotive people," said Novak Djokovic.
Novak Djokovic playing football in Rio de Janeiro
Novak Djokovic playing football in Rio de Janeiro

During the same visit, Novak Djokovic also played a football charity match with several Brazilian football legends like Romario, Cafu, Bebeto and Zico and compatriot Dejan Petkovic who has played for many Brazilian football clubs.

Published 25 May 2020, 11:40 IST
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