INSPIRED KRAJICEK SEEKS FIRST EINDHOVEN TITLE
Richard Krajicek knew that he needed to beat Sergi Bruguera in straight sets to reach the final, and thats exactly what he did. The Dutchman produced a barrage of bullet serves and huge forehands to win 6-4, 6-4 and set up a Sunday showdown with Goran Ivanisevic at the AFAS Classics in Eindhoven. Ivanisevic won nine of their 12 meetings, but Krajicek is a man on a mission this week.
Earlier, Ivanisevic fired his way past Yevgeny Kafelnikov 6-4, 7-5. The 3rd/4th place play-off will be contested by Bruguera and Michael Chang. Chang defeated Paul Haarhuis 6-7, 6-4, 10-6 (Champions Tie-break). In the other match of the day, Michael Stich overcame Henri Leconte 6-2, 7-5.
YEVGENY KAFELNIKOV INTERVIEW – I put two photographs of myself together. It was like looking at two different people.
It is a familiar story. A former World No.1 tennis player burns out after a decade of training and playing himself into the ground. He retires, breathes a sigh of relief and isnt seen or heard for five years. He relaxes, goes on holiday and does all the things he wasnt allowed to do when he was a tennis player. One day he wakes up and doesnt like, or even recognise, the person that he sees in the mirror. He is unfit and overweight, and he wants to do something about it. He hears about the BlackRock Tour of Champions and asks his old rivals what they think of it. They tell him that it is a chance to experience the competition, camaraderie and limelight that they used to enjoy, but without the stress. Perfect.
It happened to Pete Sampras, it happened to Thomas Muster and now it has happened to Yevgeny Kafelnikov.
The Russian won French and Australian Open titles, topped the world rankings and won the Olympic gold medal in Sydney 2000. Renowned for his work ethic, he played 915 singles matches and 571 doubles matches in an 11-year career. Then, after a 6-2, 6-2 loss to Mikhail Youzhny in St Petersburg in 2003, he was not seen on a competitive tennis court again. He played poker, golf and devoted his time to bringing up his now 10-year-old daughter, Alesja. He didnt work out at all, and began to tip the scales at 120 kg (264 lbs) – 36 kg (79 lbs) more than in his prime. It was time to act.
I put two photos together, one when I was playing and a recent one, and it was like looking at two different people, said Kafelnikov at the AFAS Classics in Eindhoven, where he is making his debut on the BlackRock Tour of Champions.
I said to myself, no, you cant do that to your body, its not going to last long if you do. So I needed to gather myself. Sometimes you need those moments in your life when you draw the line and see what its like to be at your best – at your highest level, and also at your lowest level. Fortunately, my lows were not too deep so I got out of it and I want to say thanks so much to everyone for giving me the opportunity to come back and play.
Kafelnikov talks with pride about his record as a tennis player, but he knew when it was time to call it a day.
Basically I burned out, he said.
I got to the stage where I couldnt take it any longer. The fact that you need to travel, the media attention, and the saddest thing – the losses. Deep down inside I felt like I belonged to the really elite group of players, which is the top five or top ten at worst. But it got to the stage where I was out of the top ten, and then 2003 was a really difficult time and I started to lose to players who would hardly win a game against me when I was at my best. I just said look, I cant take it anymore and that was when I really decided to quit.
Kafelnikov was never the most media-friendly of tennis players, but he learned a few lessons while out of the limelight, and admits that he began to miss the attention.
I wanted to get away from all the pressure that I had during the years when I was playing, and I really did that. But then, after one or two years of being away in the shadows where nobody sees you, you dont talk to people or to the media, it becomes boring. As you get older and wiser you see life from a different angle and your perspective changes, definitely. When I was playing on the tour on a regular basis I had quite an ego and thats understandable. I was there to win and it comes with the territory. Thats why Im here – people want to see me because I was once the Number One in the world and won Grand Slam titles. People want to see the guys who they idolised. Now, as we get older, were really thankful that people want to see us. Its really wonderful, and were going to try to give our best back.
He has been good to his word. Over the first two days of the AFAS Tennis Classics in Eindhoven, Kafelnikov could not have been more hospitable. He spent an hour laughing and joking with the media on the first day, offered to visit the Tour and Tournament sponsors whenever they needed him and hasnt stopped smiling since he arrived. Accompanied by daughter Alesja wherever he goes, his demeanor could not be more different to the man that reached No.1 in the world in 1999.
My daughter told me that if I go to this tournament, she goes too, so thats part of the deal, said Kafelnikov.
I had to talk to the teacher and shes allowed three days off school so shell be back to school on Monday, but shes enjoying it very much. The first day she was shy and she didnt know any of the guys but I told her look, this guy I played doubles with and this one gave me a hard time when we played, so now she knows everyone. Its a very nice feeling to see the guys that I used to share a locker room with. We had good chats before when we were on the tour together and now after those years that I have been away its pretty much the same, it never changed. They are all good guys. The BlackRock Tour is doing a good job of giving these guys another opportunity to be with each other. Were definitely now at a stage where we need to give back as much as we can to fans who really love the game of tennis. Were doing the pro-ams, talking to the sponsors and thats what we need to do.
On the court he has been less successful, losing all three of his round-robin matches against Michael Chang, Paul Haarhuis and Goran Ivanisevic. But he has already lost 15 kilos over the past six months as he bids to regain his fitness, and he isnt about to stop now.
Slowly, slowly, slowly I am getting into better shape and hopefully if I get more opportunities to play next year, I will definitely perform better, he said.
Matches on the BlackRock Tour of Champions are played over the best of three sets, with a Champions Tie-break (first to 10 points with a clear advantage of two) to decide the winner.
Last week in Luxembourg, John McEnroe won his first BlackRock Tour of Champions title in three years by defeating Leconte to take the Vivium Victory Challenge.
After Eindhoven, the Tour moves on to the Tennis Classics in Budapest. It will be the first time that the BlackRock Tour of Champions has visited Hungary. McEnroe and Bjorn Borg will both be in action
In the final event of the year, Pete Sampras and Stefan Edberg will take on McEnroe and Ivanisevic in an eight-man field at the BlackRock Masters Tennis in London, December 2-7.
Kafelnikov quotes supplied by the BlackRock Tour of Champions. If used, please credit accordingly.
RESULTS FOR SATURDAY 4TH OCTOBER
M. Stich d. H. Leconte 6-2, 7-5
M. Chang d. P. Haarhuis 6-7, 6-4, 10-6
G. Ivanisevic d. Y. Kafelnikov 6-4, 7-5
R. Krajicek d. S. Bruguera 6-4, 6-4
GROUP A (The Miracle)
Matches won/lost (sets)
Richard Krajicek 2-1 (5-2)
Sergi Bruguera 2-1 (4-2)
Michael Stich 2-1 (4-3)
Henri Leconte 0-3 (0-4)
GROUP B (Ndlovu)
Goran Ivanisevic 3-0 (6-1)
Michael Chang 2-1 (4-3)
Paul Haarhuis 1-2 (4-5)
Yevgeny Kafelnikov 0-3 (1-6)
Sunday 5th October
3rd/4th place play-off
Michael Chang vs. Sergi Bruguera
Richard Krajicek vs. Goran Ivanisevc
BLACKROCK TOUR OF CHAMPIONS POINTS ALLOCATION
Winner 400 points
Finalist 250 points
3rd place 200 points
4th place 125 points
5/6th place 80 points
7/8th place 60 points
SOUTH AFRICAN AIRWAYS 2008 TOUR OF CHAMPIONS RANKINGS (after ten events)
POS. PLAYER PTS
1 Marcelo Rios 1130
2 Goran Ivanisevic 970
3 Michael Stich 900
4 Henri Leconte 830
5 Cedric Pioline 740
6 Thomas Muster 655
7 Sergi Bruguera 610
8 Anders Jarryd 525
9 John McEnroe 480
10= Marc-Kevin Goellner (WC) 455
10= Fernando Meligeni (WC) 455
12 Pat Cash 420
13= Patrick Rafter 400
13= Pete Sampras 400
13= Stefan Edberg 400
16 Mikael Pernfors 330
17 Chris Wilkinson (WC) 325
18= Jaime Oncins (WC) 200
18= Johny Goudenbour 200
20 Bjorn Borg 185
21= Guy Forget 125
21= Jeremy Bates (WC) 125
21= Albert Costa 125
21= Carl Uwe Steeb 120
21= Guillermo Vilas 120
26= Mats Wilander 80
26= Joao Cunha e Silva (WC) 80
26= Magnus Larsson 80
26= Andrei Cherkasov 80
26= Mansour Bahrami 80
31= Jaime Yzaga 60
31= Alladin Karagoz (WC) 60
31= Andrei Chesnokov 60
WC denotes Wild Card.
The BlackRock Tour of Champions Calendar 2008
Belfast, Northern Ireland – February 21-24 (Tennis Legends)
Champion: Anders Jarryd; Runner-up: Mikael Pernfors
Barcelona, Spain – April 24-27 (Champions Cup ’08)
Champion: Marcelo Rios; Runner-up: Michael Stich
Rome, Italy – May 10-11
Champion: Thomas Muster; Runner-up: Goran Ivanisevic
Hamburg, Germany – May 14-17 (BlackRock Tennis Classic)
Champion: Michael Stich; Runner-up: Marc-Kevin Goellner
Sao Paulo, Brazil – June 19-22 (Nossa Caixa Grand Champions Brasil)
Champion: Pete Sampras; Runner-up: Marcelo Rios
Istanbul, Turkey – July 17-20
Champion: Goran Ivanisevic; Runner-up: Fernando Meligeni
Graz, Austria – July 29-August 2 (s Tennis Masters)
Champion: Patrick Rafter; Runner-up: Michael Stich
Algarve, Portugal – August 5-8 (Vale do Lobo Grand Champions CGD)
Champion: Marcelo Rios ; Runner-up : Goran Ivanisevic
Paris, France – September 18-21 (5e Trophe Jean-Luc Lagardre)
Champion: Stefan Edberg; Runner-up: Sergi Bruguera
Luxembourg, Luxembourg – September 25-28
Champion: John McEnroe; Runner-up: Henri Leconte
Eindhoven, Netherlands – October 2-5 (AFAS Tennis Classics)
Budapest, Hungary – October 9-12
Macao, China – November 20 (Special Event)
London, UK – December 2-7 (BlackRock Masters Tennis)
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