Richard Krajicek: The Flying Dutchman Of Tennis

Richard Krajicek: The Flying Dutchman Of Tennis

26 years ago, Richard Krajicek made tennis history. The dazzling Dutchman became the first (and only so far) man from The Netherlands to win a Grand Slam title. And he did it at the grandest stage of all, the Centre Court of the All England Club. Krajicek won the prestigious Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Singles Championship in 1996 by beating MaliVai Washington in the final. This wasn’t just a lucky streak that he was on. En route to the final, he defeated world number 1 and grass court legend, Pete Sampras, as well. At one point of time, Richard Krajicek seemed to be destined for unprecedented success in tennis but a slew of injuries led to a drop and performance and an early retirement. In this post, we will take a look at Richard Krajicek’s life and career and look back at the magical run to the Wimbledon championship in 1996. Let’s get started.

Richard Krajicek: All You Need To Know

Who is Richard Krajicek?

Richard Peter Stanislav Krajicek was born in Rotterdam on December 6, 1971. His parents Petr and Ludmilla fled Czechoslovakia in 1970 because of communism. They arrived in Rotterdam on the day that Feyenoord won the European Cup and the Rotterdammers were celebrating on the streets. A year later Richard is born. He grew up with an older half sister Lenka. His half-sister Michaela, born in 1989, is also a great tennis player. She was born from her father Petr’s marriage to another Czech woman, Pavlina. Richard’s half-brother Peter Krajicek is also born from that marriage.

How did Richard Krajicek start playing tennis?

At the age of 3, Richard Krajicek was already playing tennis with his father, a former handball player who was very competitive in nature. Richard always showed talent. He would later say that everything in his house was about performing. He was therefore afraid of losing a match, because it was not so much fun at home. He said he has not been mistreated, but the punishments were sometimes physical. His father, for example, had him run home from the training center after a lost game and he drove next to his son in the car to check that he was not walking. From the age of 5, he received federation training in the district of The Hague. Besides his father, Marian Laudin was also his tennis coach. Laudin, who also hailed from the Czech Republic, would later also become the coach of Michaela.

How were Richard Krajicek’s initial days as a tennis player?

Richard Krajicek regularly won major tournaments in his youth, such as the national title up to 12 years and he placed 4th in the world championship for youth up to 12 years in 1983. Between his 14th and 16th year of life, the Krajiceks marched to the tennis top. He suffered from physical problems, and problems with his technique and tactics. But also personally things were not going well for him. His talent seems nipped in the bud. During that time he had a growth spurt and he felt like playing tennis again. He switched to another trainer, Cees Houweling of Tennis Club Popeye Gold Star in Amsterdam.

His increased height had an advantage for his attacking game. Houweling advised Krajicek to switch from a double-handed backhand to a single-handed backhand, which he did. The backhand had always been Krajicek’s weakest point and this helped him.

Did Richard Krajicek’s parents separate when he was very young?

His parents divorced in 1986, dealing Krajicek a massive blow. He lost contact with his father, whom he only saw again in 2001. Krajicek was a smart young man who went to school regularly. In 1988, after the 4th grade, he dropped out of school to devote himself entirely to his tennis career. National coach Stanley Franker invited him to the Dutch Juniors and he became successful again. He joined the satellite circuit and won his 1st tournament.

How did Richard Krajicek make his foray into the pro level?

After that win and other good results in the Challenger tournaments, he rose from 314th to 148th in the world rankings. Krajicek had been participating in ATP tournaments since 1991, tournaments organized by the Association of Tennis Professionals. He won his first match in the Sydney tournament against Swiss Marc Rosset. He also played his first Grand Slam tournament in 1991, the opening slam of the year, Australian Open. In it, he managed to reach the 4th round. Krajicek entered the top 100 of the ranking of the best pro players in the world. He climbed to 94th place. He won his first ATP tournament in Hong Kong when he beat Australian Wally Masur in the final. He then went on to hire Australian Rohan Goetzke as his coach.

Richar Krajicek’s tryst with Wimbledon

Richard Krahicek’s big break came in 1992 when he reached the semifinals of Wimbledon, losing to American Jim Courier. Krajicek had to retire from the match due to a shoulder injury.

After his victory in Antwerp in the same year, he reached the top 10 of the ATP ranking. In 1993 he lost in the semifinals to Jim Courier once again but this time, it was during the French Open at Roland Garros. Krajicek’s ranking dipped a little as he failed to win any tournament for a year.  He was also doubtful about participating in the Wimbledon tournament in 1996, because he was a bit frustrated by grass court tennis.

He lost the quarterfinals to Paul Haarhuis in Rosmalen just before Wimbledon and quarreled with his coach. And he hadn’t won a match at Wimbledon for 2 years. A few days before the opening of the tournament, he wanted to go on holiday together with Daphne Deckers, his future wife whom he married in 1999. But he realized on time that it would be ridiculous not to go for a Grand Slam title. That’s why he left for London anyway.

The start of an unlikely march

Richard Krajicek was then 24 years old and had already undergone 2 major knee operations. Because of his game, serve-volley, and his height, 1.96 m, he was at risk of major injuries to his knee. Richard Krajicek always had a great serve, was good at the net and moved quickly. His backhand had always been his weak point. In addition, the perfectionist Krajicek was quite erratic in terms of mentality. After his retirement from tennis, Krajicek has said that he was fighting both himself and his opponent on the court.

A wildcard entry

Krajicek had not qualified for the Wimbledon tournament. Luckily, he got a wildcard entry when the Austrian Thomas Muster pulled out from the tournament. Richard Krajicek took his place and thus began the unlikeliest of journeys to the top. The first round opponent of Krajicek was the Spaniard Javier Sanchez. Just like Krajicek, he didn’t like playing on grass and would rather play against Muster, because then he could create more opportunities. Sanchez knew he had to play well against Krajicek to have a chance. That did not happen and the Dutchman managed to win the match 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.

The second match of the tournament also presented a few problems for Krajicek. His opponent was the American Derrick Rostagno, once ranked 13 in the world but only number 133 in 1996. He was struggling with injuries during Wimbledon 1996. Krajicek won the match easily 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. During one of the games, he was perfect as he served out the set with four straight aces. When Rostagno had to serve again, he kept the balls in the air and made the humorous comment: “almost new balls’ ‘.

Richard Krajicek has caused quite a stir with a number of comments and provocative humor. At Wimbledon in 1992, for example, he said that 80 percent of female tennis pros are fat, lazy pigs. He later retracted this, only to casually say that only 75 percent of female tennis players were actually fat and lazy. Tennis legend Martina Navratilova famously threatened to punch him in the head.

Turning point

In the third round, Krajicek met New Zealander Brett Steven. Even though Krajicek dropped a set, he still got a comfortable 7-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-2 win in 4 sets. At the end of the 1st set, Krajicek dropped mentally, which lasted the entire 2nd set. The turning point of the match came when at the start of the 3rd set he no longer thought about victory, but about his vacation. In the NOS program Sport in Beeld: Oranje Paars from 1999, he said about this: “At the start of the 3rd set I was already thinking about my vacation. And that I wanted to start it with a good feeling despite my imminent defeat. So shut up, I told myself. Just go. I haven’t looked back. That was really a turning point.”

German Michael Stich was Krajicek’s next opponent. Stich was an opponent of stature and won Wimbledon in 1991. In the game against Stich, Krajicek hit his backhand in full swing, instead of using the more defensive slice ball, as usual. Krajicek slipped in the third set and landed hard on the grass. He had karate lessons and therefore managed to break his fall. Krajicek was doing well and won 6-4, 7-6, 6-4 in straight sets. After their active careers, Stich and Krajicek kept in touch and became friends.

Showdown with the beast

In the quarterfinals, Krajicek had to face the legendary American Pete Sampras, nicknamed Pistol Pete, the number 1 in the world (and still widely considered to be one of the greatest tennis players of all time). Krajicek was in the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament for the 4th time. Sampras had won the 3 previous Wimbledon tournaments and went into the showdown with Krajicek as a heavy favourite to win it all. Even after Krajicek’s win in 1996, Sampras managed to win the Wimbledon title no less than 4 times.

Due to the rain, the game was played over 2 days. Krajicek served, returned and passed great and even his weak backhand was fantastic. Sampras would later say that Krajicek beat him that day at his own game. The rain regularly came pouring down from the sky, causing the match to be interrupted a number of times. During one of those rain breaks, Sir Cliff Richard sang to the audience together with Joanna Lumley and Martina Navratilova, among others.

The match was interrupted for the first time at the end of the 1st set. When it was resumed, the break appeared to have been very good for Krajicek, as he won the first two sets 7-5 and 7-6. Because of the rain and the falling darkness, the gentlemen continued the next day. Krajicek won the 3rd set that next day 6-4 and won the match. “Suddenly I felt tension, that it was completely in my hand. I knew: this is perhaps my biggest chance to win Wimbledon,” said Krajicek in 1999 in the NOS program Sport in Beeld: Oranje Paars about his victory over Sampras.

In the other half of the draw, Australian Jason Stoltenberg managed to beat Croatian Goran Ivanisevic in the quarterfinals, an opponent Krajicek did not like to play against. Stoltenberg was number 46 in the world ranking. Due to the rain, the game was not played on Friday, but on Saturday. Stoltenberg was an all-round player with a solid volley. Yet he couldn’t do much against the fantastic Krajicek. Krajicek won by 7-5, 6-2, 6-1 and for the first time in his career, reached a Grand Slam final.

Final, streaker and win

Richard Krajicek faced American MaliVai Washington in the final. Just before the game, 23-year-old Melissa Johnson ran onto the track, wearing only an apron. The streaker manages to calm Krajicek’s nerves.

After dispatching Pete Sampras in the quarterfinal, Krajicek was the favourite. “I was sure: if I ever reach a grand slam final, MaliVai will not be my opponent. He was a baseliner with little experience in the major tournaments. So I was just better and I did feel that pressure,” he said in 1999 in the NOS program Sport in Beeld: Oranje Paars. Washington would later say that Krajicek was the best player in the world during those 2 weeks at Wimbledon. Washington: “Richard had the face of a baby, but the service of a man.” Krajicek won the final without any problems with 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.

The match lasted only 93 minutes and was interrupted 3 times because of the rain. When the last ball was played and Krajicek knew that he was a Wimbledon champion, he dropped to his knees just like his childhood idol Bjorn Borg after his victories on the same sacred grass.

Krajicek did not immediately realize that he had won Wimbledon. “When I dropped, I suddenly doubted: was it match point?”, he said after the final. At the award ceremony, he dropped the lid of the trophy. He was also nervous about his dance with Steffi Graf, the women’s winner, at the closing Wimbledon dinner.

What happened to Richard Krajicek after his Wimbledon win?

After his win at Wimbledon, Krajicek won the ATP tournament in Stuttgart in 1998 as well as the ATP Tournament in Miami in 1999. It proved to be Krajicek’s last major tournament win. He had struggled with injuries for a large part of his career. He had serious problems with his elbow.

During the US Open, that elbow kicked in again, preventing him from playing for 20 months. It was the beginning of the end of his career. In 2002 he made his comeback at the Rosmalen tournament, where he lost to Roger Federer in the 1st round. In that year he reached the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, in which he lost to the Belgian Xavier Malisse. He could no longer return to his old level, so he stopped tennis in 2003.

What was the highest career ranking of Richard Krajicek?

Richard Krajicek reached his highest ranking in the world ranking in 1999 when he was placed 4th. This put him in 2nd place among the highest ranked Dutch tennis players in the world ranking, after Tom Okker. Okker reached the 3rd position of the world ranking in 1974. Krajicek won a total of 17 titles and lost 9 finals.

What did Richard Krajicek do after retiring from tennis?

After his career as a tennis player, Krajicek became the director of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. He wrote a book called Harde Ballen and contributed to the election program of the VVD in 2010. In 2013, he was a member of the National Inauguration Committee that celebrated the inauguration of King Willem-Alexander.

In 1997, Krajicek founded the Richard Krajicek Foundation, which makes playgrounds. They are socially safe places close to home, where children can play sports, play and discover new things without any worries. The Foundation provides extra guidance for young people from the neighbourhood who, in exchange for a scholarship, organize activities in and around their own Playgrounds. These young people are called Krajicek Scholarshippers. There are now more than 125 playgrounds spread over 42 municipalities, there are 211 Krajicek Scholarshippers and more than 2,400 scholarships have been provided to young people in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

Richard Krajicek Foundation

The Richard Krajicek Foundation enables children in disadvantaged neighborhoods to exercise and play together close to home. Thanks to the expert and intensive guidance on the playgrounds, children are given the opportunity to develop in a positive way in a safe environment. There are 100 active playgrounds in the Netherlands (Richard Krajicek Foundation, 2017). The Zeeland playground is located in Vlissingen and is a partnership between the ROAT Foundation, the Richard Krajicek Foundation and the Municipality of Vlissingen.

Various activities are offered at the playground in Vlissingen and the children/young people are encouraged to do well at school. If a young person organizes 100 hours of activities on the playground in a year, he/she can receive a scholarship. However, he/she must do well at school and be known in the neighbourhood. The playground wants to stimulate the children/young people and the guidance to give something back to the neighborhood and thus improve society. The playground is socially safe for children and young people because of the supervision. Everyone is also welcome on the playground.

The Richard Krajicek Foundation wants to provide a safe environment where children can develop in a healthy and positive way and can be a source of inspiration for the youth in their neighborhood. They want to contribute to a better future for Dutch youth.

Does Richard Krajicek have his own coin?

Richard Krajicek is the only Dutchman to have won the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world, Wimbledon. It is a world-class achievement. With this victory, Richard Krajicek can be added to the list of Dutchmen who have achieved an exceptional international sporting performance.

At the tennis club where Richard Krajicek made his first serve as a toddler, the 1996 Wimbledon winner was honored with a coin. This was done to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his legendary Wimbledon triumph.

Today, the tennis player is the only Dutchman with a Grand Slam title in his pocket. In honor of the anniversary, the Royal Dutch Mint has minted a coin in collaboration with the Krajicek Foundation. “Yes, he succeeded,” says the former tennis player with the image in his hand to media partner WOS.

Krajicek was 1 year old when he moved with his family to De Lier. At tennis club LTC ‘t Loo he took his first steps towards a successful pro career. And whenever he is in the vicinity of Westland, the athlete always makes a detour in the village centre. “I walked around my house for a while. And I drove past ‘t Puntje, the snack bar next to my old school De Vlieten. Yes, always beautiful.”

Richard Krajicek: Coaching career

Dutchman Richard Krajicek worked as a coach of Canadian tennis player Milos Raonic. The number three in the world announced this via Instagram. “I am sure that with his experience and as a Wimbledon champion, Richard can help me achieve my new and higher goals for 2017,” Raonic wrote.

The 25-year-old Canadian recently broke off his partnership with former Spanish tennis player Carlos Moya, who acted as his coach last season. Raonic experienced a personal top year, which he started with a win of the ATP tournament in Brisbane. The tall Canadian, who has a strong serve, then reached the last four at the Australian Open and played his first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon. Raonic climbed to third place in the world ranking, behind Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.

With Krajicek by his side, Raonic hoped to win his first Grand Slam title next season. The two had been working together for a while last season, but then it did not come to an agreement. Now the 45-year-old Dutchman is going to work as a coach of the Canadian.

Krajicek also announced that he will remain director of the ATP tournament in Rotterdam for at least three years. “These two jobs are an ideal combination for me,” said the former tennis player, who won Wimbledon in 1996. “I’ve been walking around with the ambition to coach for a while. And to be able to get started with a top player like Raonic is of course a great opportunity. The fact that Rotterdam Ahoy also expresses the confidence to continue with me makes it complete. I’ve said before that, after playing by myself, this is the most beautiful court in tennis.”

Richard Krajicek: Best Quotes

There are a lot of good memories, and because I was injured, during the rehab, I met my wife. The tennis was very good but the injuries were good for something too.

Hewitt is such a fighter on the court; he never gives up. They all have qualities to beat him.

But the problem with coaching is that it is a full-time job. By that I mean for at least 40 weeks in a year you have to be with the player, either travelling or training. Right now I don’t want to do that.

Roddick can challenge him as well if he serves big consistently for the entire match. If he does that, then he is tough to break even for a guy like Federer.

Federer can be the best ever; he has the potential. The only question is whether he has the desire.

But in 2000, the injuries really started to kick in and my elbow gave a lot of problems. At the end of the year I had to take 20 months off before I could come back into the game.

But, then again, I had to stop because there was too much pain or too much trouble. After I retired I still had one more elbow surgery just to be able to do normal things.

I may have exaggerated a bit when I said that 80 percent of the top 100 women are fat pigs. What I meant to say was 75 percent of the top 100 women are fat pigs.

Maybe, one other match better; but if you look at the tournament as a whole, I played very high quality tennis for seven matches and raised my game when I needed to.

So that was a look at the life and career of Dutch tennis legend Richard Krajicek. His Wimbledon triumph in 1996 is definitely one of the most memorable Wimbledon triumphs in history.

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