Off the track, AyrtonSenna had several hobbies, and tennis was one of the three-time champion´s favorites. As a fan of sports, Senna also had the privilege of watching a Roland Garros final. It was the women’s championship match between Monica Seles and Steffi Graf, which took place on June 6, 1992. The title went to Seles on the main court of the French Open, and Senna ended up appearing in the official broadcast.
Five years later, Brazil was featured once again in Roland Garros – this time, thanks to the tennis player on the court: Gustavo “Guga” Kuerten won for the first time the world’s most important clay court tournament, in 1997. The young athlete didn’t have the chance to meet Senna, but he made a point to mention the driver many times throughout his career and, just like Ayrton, became a role model in his home country.
“I think Brazil lacks self-esteem, we need it. And Senna was a symbol for that. Growing up, I thought I could become [a champion]”, said Guga in an interview to Sportv (brazilian channel).
An Ayrton Senna fan, Guga spent many Sundays in his childhood and teenage years watching Ayrton’s races on TV. As someone who has a lot of heart, never gives up, and is capable of overcoming any obstacle, the tennis player carried the driver´s legacy forward.
“Never meeting Senna is a hole left in my life. And I’ve turned that into an engine to accomplish a lot”, Guga told GloboEsporte.com. The tennis idol even imagined how his own life could have been if he had met the driver. “I’d have won another four or five Grand Slam tournaments with his tips. It would have been a privilege. I actually consider myself a friend of his, to be frank. As fans, we are allowed to do that. And also as an athlete. To bring him closer, somehow. What was great for me was that Ayrton was my main reference point when I became a professional tennis player”.
As it turned out, Gustavo Kuerten’s first time in Roland Garros was also in 1992, on the stands, after being ushered in by a doorman with the help of coach Larri Passos. The match Guga watched was between Brazilian Jaime Oncins and Czech Ivan Lendell, on May 29 (a Friday). On that weekend, two days later, Senna would beat Nigel Mansell, in Monaco, after an epic duel in the final laps. And on the following Saturday (June 6), it was Ayrton Senna’s turn to attend a Roland Garros match.