And Seles did, speaking about the respect and memorable match moments the two shared as two teen prodigies on the WTA tour. Capriati then, again, spoke of the importance of the moment, bringing herself and the audience to tears.
“When I received the call from the Hall of Fame,… the tears and emotions were just overwhelming. I left the game earlier than I expected, earlier than I wanted to, and because of this I was not able to leave the game on my terms,” she said, noting the moment comes at a crucial time. “It is a moment that I needed to rejoice, embrace and truly love all that has encapsulated my life.”
While all the inductees and family were emotional on the day, Capriati seemed more so, because her struggles in getting to Newport have been perhaps the most public of all. This validation of her career and life should bring the peace Capriati has sought since we all first got to know her at age 13.
“Gu-Ga, Gu-Ga.” Christopher Clouser, Chairman of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, led the spectators in a chant before introducing Kuerten’s mother, Alice, who would help induct her son, “a boy with curly hair,” into the Hall.
After his mother’s speech, the emotional Kuerten smiled his famous smile through the tears and spoke unscripted: “My English is so bad, imagine how hard it would be to write.” He noted that growing up, as his parents made sacrifices to allow him to play tennis, he could not have even dreamt of reaching this point in a career. He owed everything to tennis, Kuerten said, except meeting his wife and mother of 5-month-old daughter. He wooed her by saying that , “I also won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open three times each,” Kuerten joking, as his wife, astonishingly, had never seen him play a tennis match as an active player.
The rest of Brazil took notice, however. But, unlike, for example, last year’s inductee, Agassi, who always felt he had to maintain an image, Kuerten never felt pressured. Known for his fight and sportsmanship on the court and his friendly demeanor and humanitarian efforts outside of the game, Kuerten says he has been helped by being from Brazil.
“This is a good thing of being Brazilian. Everything I got extra would be good enough. It's much harder to be an American player, that if you're not No. 1 in the world, you know, you miss something, that's not good enough, another guy who is better.
Being Brazilian, was easy to this point of view. Once I got the Slam in France in '97, it's like a carnival in Brazil. I could stop playing tennis and would be in the Hall of Fame in Brazil. Is enough for them.
Of course, the opposite is I become like a national idol in Brazil, so I have to understand to
deal with kind of pressure, to deal with my expectations…. Perhaps it depends a lot how you look at the picture. For me, I'm very optimist and happy, so was not a big trouble.”
Mariya Konovalova's photos from the ceremony can be found HERE.