A work of art
Kuerten brushes off Kafelnikov to move on in Paris
PARIS (Reuters) -- Yevgeny Kafelnikov compared Gustavo Kuerten to Picasso after receiving a lesson in the modern art of tennis from the Brazilian in their French Open quarterfinal on Tuesday.
The top seed's 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4 victory marked the third time in five years he has beaten the Russian in the last eight at Roland Garros.
"It's difficult playing from behind with a player like Gustavo all the time," said Kafelnikov, who never fully recovered from losing the first set in only 18 minutes.
"You give him freedom, he's like Picasso. He's playing backhand up the line, backhand cross court, doing everything."
The player known as "Guga", who drew a giant love heart on the court after his marathon fourth-round victory over qualifier Michael Russell on Sunday, modestly shrugged off the compliment.
"He's never seen me paint," laughed the Brazilian. "Maybe on the court I can produce some magic like the other day against Russell.
"But, really, put some paper in front of me and I'm just the level of a qualifier."
Kafelnikov has proved a lucky charm for clay specialist Kuerten, who beat him in the Roland Garros quarterfinals 12 months ago and in 1997, going on to win the title on both occasions.
The Russian thinks Kuerten will also retain his crown this year.
"I said whoever won the match today would win the tournament," Kafelnikov said.
"It's a big, big paradox for me. The guy who beats me always gets huge, huge confidence because they know it's not an easy thing to accomplish, beat me in a Grand Slam.
"Normally, when they do that, they go on and take the title. Hopefully, he will do that again. Otherwise, I'll be very ashamed."
History also suggests the hat-trick is on.
The last person to win the French Open three times was Czech Ivan Lendl, in 1984, 1986 and 1987, and on each occasion he beat the same player, Ecuador's Andres Gomez, in the quarterfinals.
The lithe Brazilian certainly feels the pressure is off now he is through to the last four, where he will face in-form Spaniard and fourth seed Juan Carlos Ferrero.
"From now on, I don't have much more pressure on myself to win, to beat the other guys. It's pretty open now. Maybe I can take more risks and play my game a little bit relaxed," he said.
Kuerten is certain to have the crowd on his side in the semifinal clash on Centre Court, but he knows their expectations can also be a burden.
"It can be a temple but it can be a hole too," Kuerten said. "You can see yourself in the best and worst situations.
"But for sure the greatest happiness in my career has been on this Centre Court."
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