Although many recall his twin defeats of Sampras and Agassi on an ultra fast carpet to finish the millenium as world no.1, I always remember Gustavo Kuerten fondly by replaying the match where he fought the odds and injury to overwhelm Federer in 2004 RG.
On the eve of the match, there was this injury cloud hanging over and Kuerten, who missed a good part of the last two years nursing his hip injury, was almost ready to give up on the hopeless prospect of trying to beat a man who was almost unbeatable in 2004. As a hardcore Kuerten fan, and a touchy Federer fan I was only too happy to see both of them stroll into the court after much speculation.
What followed was perhaps the best exhibition of clay court tennis since Albert Costa won the French Open in 2002. Federer had no idea how to play Kuerten as the backhand drives kicked up on this throat time and again and he was caught in no man’s land trying move forward and back. Kuerten went for broke to avoid playing longer and aggravating injury and it worked with Federer getting increasingly defensive as the match went on. The match ended 6/4 6/4 6/4 in Kuerten’s favour and raised hopes of a decent finish for 2004 only to squashed by Nalbandian in the next round. French Open has never been the same since.
The closest a Gasquet match came to match this high was when he defeated James Blake at Paris Indoor masters 2 months ago.