Richard Krajicek

Excerpt of Pete Sampras autobiography A champion’s mind:

“When Paul (Annacone) and I arrived in England a few days after losing in the French, I appreciated the cool climate and those beautiful grass courts. It was like deleting every recent file on my mental hard drive and starting over. I really needed to regroup after the shocking collapse in Paris. The year was halfway over and, like most years, I would just a success or failure depending on whether or not I won a major.

I skipped all the warm-up tournaments for Wimbledon in 1996, hoping to regain my stores of stamina and energy. Things started to click for me when the tournament began, and although I lost a set to my Davis Cup buddy Richey Reneberg in the first round, pretty soon I was firing on all cylinders. I hammered Mark Philippoussis in straight sets in the round of 16. I rolled through Cédric Pioline, losing just ten games.
In the quarterfinals, I would be playing Richard Krajicek, the rangy, tall, hard-serving Dutchman who was always a threat on fast surfaces. He could pop up at any time and win a tournament, looking like the second coming of Pancho Gonzalez. At other times, he was just another big guy with a good serve who didn’t seem to have the confidence or drive to win, week in, week out.

I felt that Richard was a little nervous as we warmed up under leaden skies. But he held his own through the first seven or eight games, each of us taking care of his serve. Everything was fine, in my book. I was making him work on his service games, and I was getting pretty good looks at his second serves. I had break points here and there, which was encouraging even when I didn’t convert them. I had played many matches like this before on grass. The trick was to stay alert, focused, and confident, because my chance would come. I was getting to him, I felt pretty sure about that? It was just a matter of time.
But before we could finish the set, the rains came. We had a break of a few hours, and that gave both of us a little time to think and regroup. When we returned to the court, he was a different player. He was suddenly going for his shots, especially his second serve. Whether he knew it or not, he was taking me into the territory I least liked to visit. My m.o called for me to approach even the most lethal serve-and-volleyers with the expectation that I’ll get a good look at some second serves. If that happened, I could beat them. The strategy worked against Goran Ivanisevic, it worked against Boris Becker, and it worked against Stefan Edberg. But when it became harder for me to get a sniff at a second serve, it created a chain reaction. If I couldn’t get to his serve, that put more pressure on mine. I think Richard sensed that, and his own excellent serving freed up the rest of his game, especially his return game. And that’s how it almost always works.

Krajicek won the first set 7-5, breaking me once. It emboldened him, and suddenly he was getting hold of my serves with his backhand return? Plus, his passing shots were impeccable. I lost the second set 6-4, and was relieved when it started to sprinkle again, because the light was fading. I knew we would never finish the match that day, and I really needed to regroup.
Yet instead of thinking, Tomorrow’s a new day, I’ll get back on track – no way he can stay hot like that… I had a strange sense of foreboding. I didn’t feel good about the way the match was going, and knew I was in a big, big hole. Paul worked double time that night to get me back up, to restore my confidence, but he couldn’t pull me out of it. Although I was still in the match I was feeling negative.

When we returned to play the next day, we just continued where we left off. Richard came out bombing away, and I immediately got discouraged, thinking, Hey this is what I do to people on grass. Long story short, he closed me out. All the credit to Richard for getting the job done. He played a great match, technically and mentally. And it was some balm for me to see him go on to win the tournament – if you’e going to lose, you may as well lose to the guy who’s going to run the table. I’ve never watched that match on tape, but I’d be curious – just to see if Richard’s game really did change as much as I believe it did after the rain delay.

Mark Philippoussis, Australian Open 1996

Excerpt of Pete Sampras autobiography A champion’s mind:

“I entered that event after having had less than a month of “off season” following the Grand Slam Cup (I pulled out of that with an ankle injury), and there was no way I was ready, much less eager to play.

I made the trip, though, and I played and ended up losing in the third round to an Aussie, Mark Philippoussis. The conditions were perfect for an upset: Mark had an adoring home crowd behind him and it was a night match, with some eighteen thousands fans jammed into the Rod Laver Arena, hungry for an upset. Mark just overpowered me – he was in the mythic zone, and when that happens to a player who has as big and versatile a game as Philippoussis, you’re in trouble.

Down deep, I didn’t feel too badly about the loss. I’d done my best. It might have been different if I’d been able to have six or eight weeks off to recharge my batteries and prepare for the new year. It also might have been different if it were any other major but the Australian. I never really liked playing in Melbourne, and my results over the years reflected it (I won just two titles there). This surprised many people, because on the surface the Australian Open might have looked like the perfect Grand Slam for me.

The Aussies have a great tennis tradition, yet even their icons tended to be regular, plainspoken, understated guys, somewhat like me. That was an immediate affinity I felt with Australia. The Australians also are a friendly, easygoing people, and the atmosphere at their major is laid-back; that also suited me. You could get gut-shot in the street there and if you crawled up to a guy for help he’d probably say, “No worries, mate!” and then do all he could to help.
The facilities at Melbourne Park, including Rod Laver Arena, are modern and first-class. You don’t have that feeling of chaos and crowding that characterizes the other majors; even the media presence is considerably smaller. So you have a little less of that intensity and crazy pressure.

In Melbourne you could always count on a few days when the temperature pushes the 100 degree mark, and even though it isn’t very humid, the heat can be draining. It was a special problem for me, because I secretly suffered from thalassemia, a mild disease common to men of Mediterranean descent. It’s basically a blood-iron deficiency that causes anemia, and those who have it are prone to wilting in intense heat.

Another unpredictable thing about the courts at Melbourne Park was the Rebound Ace surface (which was replaced by Plexicushion for 2008). Rebound Ace was a rubber compound that they painted over the typical hard-court base of asphalt. The surface provided a little cushioning and slowed the bounce, but it did strange things in the heat. It was so hot in Melbourne one year that a TV crew cracked an egg on court and, using time-lapse photography, recorded it frying. The heat made the Rebound Ace very sticky.

Yet the conditions in Oz can change in the blink of an eye. The difference between playing day and night matches there is huge (the Australian and US opens are the only two majors that have night tennis, and the retractable roof over the Laver Arena means you can have night indoor tennis). The surface reacted easily to ambient changes of any kind; it was simply a different court when the temperature was a comfortable 75 or 80 degrees – which was often the case during the night matches that followed scorching afternoons. To me, the Australian major was a crapshoot in the areas where I most preferred consistency – the surface, the balls, and the ambient conditions.”

Pete Sampras would end up winning 6 more Grand Slams. As for Philippoussis, despite 2 Grand Slam finals (1998 US Open and 2003 Wimbledon) he never fullfilled the expectations placed in him.

An exciting day of tennis at the Optima Open on Saturday, in front of a sell-out crowd.
3 entertaining matches with:
– 2 players I had never seen play: Mark Philippoussis and Thomas Enqvist
– 2 players I had never seen play against each other: the two legends Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe
and 2 players I’ve seen countless times: Guy Forget and Henri Leconte

Ballboys warm-up:

Optima Open 2012

Optima Open 2012

Optima Open 2012

First match: Thomas Enqvist vs Mark Philippoussis. The winner of the match will meet Goran Ivanisevic in the final on Sunday.

Former top 20 Sabine Appelmans presenting the players:

Sabine Appelmans

Mark Philippoussis and Thomas Enqvist

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Optima Open 2012

Henri Leconte

Last year, I’ve had the chance to win 2 entry tickets for the Optima Open, the belgian stop of the ATP Champions Tour. I really had a great time and enjoyed watching Borg, Wilander and co. Read part 1 and part 2 of my recap.
No free tickets this time, but I’ll be at the Optima Open again this year, and can’t wait to watch the match between BorgMcEnroe on Saturday. So stay tuned for photos, video and reports.

Bjorn Borg

9 players will take part to the tournament: Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Mats Wilander, Goran Ivanisevic, Mark Philippoussis, Henri Leconte, Guy Forget, Thomas Enqvist and defending champion Carlos Moya. Do you think the 1998 French Open champion will retain his title this year?

Who will win the Optima Open ?

  • Goran Ivanisevic (45%, 5 Votes)
  • Carlos Moya (18%, 2 Votes)
  • Thomas Enqvist (18%, 2 Votes)
  • Mark Philippoussis (9%, 1 Votes)
  • Henri Leconte (9%, 1 Votes)
  • Guy Forget (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 11

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Who's your favorite among the players of the Optima Open?

  • Mats Wilander (36%, 4 Votes)
  • Goran Ivanisevic (27%, 3 Votes)
  • Bjorn Borg (9%, 1 Votes)
  • John McEnroe (9%, 1 Votes)
  • Henri Leconte (9%, 1 Votes)
  • Thomas Enqvist (9%, 1 Votes)
  • Carlos Moya (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Mark Philippoussis (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Guy Forget (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 11

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Carlos Moya

More infos on the Optima Open official website.

In 1987, the legendary first Prestige Pro racquet marked HEAD’s entry into a new generation of tennis racquets, based on a carbon fibre construction. This enabled players like Henri Leconte, Emilio Sanchez and Thomas Muster to play with an unprecedented level of power, control, and precision.
Now, the legend continues as HEAD launches the 2012 HEAD YouTek™ IG Prestige, which is coming to stores worldwide right in time for the Australian Open.

To honour the anniversary of this legendary racquet series, HEAD kicks off the year 2012 with a special celebration. Looking back at 25 years of history, outstanding players, epic tennis matches and trophies, and very special and personal Prestige moments, HEAD has launched a bespoke Facebook application and a series of YouTube videos, which allow tennis fans to dive into the Prestige history.

Each month, one of the past and current HEAD Prestige players reflects on a special ‘Prestige’ moment in his career. The Prestige legend featured in January is Thomas Muster.
Watch him talk about the career-threatening leg injury he suffered a few hours after his semifinal win over Yannick Noah at Key Biscayne, in 1989:


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