Kuerten regains confidence after victory

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/T/Tennisgeneric.jpg' class='caption'> Gustavo Kuerten was in familiar territory, yet a little unsure. After all, he hadn't won on tour since May and only twice all year.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:48 IST
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Gustavo Kuerten was in familiar territory, yet a little unsure. After all, he hadn't won on tour since May and only twice all year. And he hadn't won in a Grand Slam tournament in 15 months. But the three-time French Open champion restored some of his confidence Tuesday, beating American Paul Goldstein 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-6 (3). After playing more than three sets only once this year – and forced to retire from his last outing in Poland earlier this month, Kuerten prevailed in a match that lasted three hours and one minute. "To tell you the truth, I didn't know too much what to expect,'' the 28-year-old Brazilian said. "I really wasn't sure that I could be out there for that long and playing in this way for many hours. "But that's the confidence that only the match can give me. That's probably the thing I think I feel right now more that I – that I appreciate more around everything in the game.'' Ranked No. 1 by the ATP in 2000 and winner of the French Open in 1997, 2000 and 2001, Kuerten won the last of his 20 titles in February 2004 in Vina del Mar, Chile. He reached the quarterfinals of the French Open last year, but surgery in September 2004 following a second-straight first-round exit from the US Open to remove bone spurs from his hip has limited his competition since. He has played in only eight tour events, never advancing past the second round. Unforced errors Other than first-round victories in Valencia, Spain, in April, and Hamburg, Germany, in May, Kuerten's only other wins were a pair of singles triumphs in Brazil's 5-0 Davis Cup victory over the Netherlands Antilles in July. "I have a lot of lackness of power and lackness of playing, too'' said Kuerten, who had 73 unforced errors – more than twice the number Goldstein committed. "I think I'm getting better and better, but still a way from my top level.'' If "Guga'' lacks power, it wasn't evident to Goldstein, who saw 35 aces fly by him. "He took a lot of big swings,'' Goldstein said. "And he made them more often than not.'' Considering Kuerten's maladies, Goldstein thought he had an opportunity, feeling that the Brazilian might not be able to move as in the past. "He's been injured a lot this year, so I thought if ever I was to get a crack at him, this was my best chance. But he took energy from the crowd. And he still can hit the ball as well as anyone in the world.'' Back in form Having last won at a Grand Slam when he beat Spain's Feliciano Lopez in the fourth round at last year's French Open, and a year since he played on hardcourts, Kuerten sees Tuesday's victory as a big step back to good form. "Right now, it's important because I'm able to play another match,'' he said. "It's one year that I'm not playing in a hardcourt, to being able to hang in there and fight. It's probably much more important than winning a Grand Slam match in my best years.'' (AP)

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