Aaron Krickstein

Born: August 2, 1967 in Ann Arbor (Michigan)
Height: 1.83 m
Plays: Right-handed (two-handed backhand)
One of two prodigies of American tennis in the mid 80s along with three years older Jimmy Arias (they were the first famous pupils of Nick Bollettieri‘s academy in Bradenton). He became the youngest player to win a main-level title at the age of 16 years 2 months in Tel Aviv ’83 – an intriguing feat given his Jewish heritage. Krickstein also set a record for being the youngest player ever to break into the top 10, achieving this milestone at the age of exactly 17; a few months earlier he reached the final in Rome, where he faced Andrés Gómez and lost in four sets. Following this final, Gómez became Krickstein’s most frequent opponent, winning all eight of their subsequent meetings between 1984 and 1986.
The playing style of the Ecuadorian certainly didn’t complement Krickstein’s game, but the US teenager also faced a big challenge in other left-handed, and much older foe – Jimmy Connors. Connors, a legend of American tennis, handed Krickstein a double bagel in their first encounter in 1984. This mental edge perhaps proved pivotal in their iconic five-set match at the US Open ’91, where the 38-year-old Connors emerged victorious despite Krickstein’s impressive five-set record. “After I won the first few of those, it really boosted my confidence in the other matches where I got down 0-2,” Krickstein said in 1995 about his unique ability to win matches from two-sets-to-love down (he did it ten times, a record for many years). “When I’m down like that, it seems like I start going for my shots more. Like I’ve got nothing to lose. The only time I really got tight in a fifth set was in that match at the U.S. Open against Connors.”
Krickstein’s style was that of a counter-puncher, capable of frustrating a great player like Stefan Edberg, with precise top-spin passing-shots and lobs off both wings. They played three dramatic five-setters against each other, and Krickstein always left the court as a victor, even when there was a big gap in their ranking positions, in Melbourne ’95. However, he found it challenging to overcome more powerful serve-and-volleyers like Boris Becker or Pete Sampras (lost twice to him blowing match points). As Connors and John McEnroe neared the end of their greatness, Krickstein became America’s brightest hope in the mid 80s. His ability to win five-set matches was commendable (28-9 record in the end), but the toll of prolonged matches on his body eventually halted his progress.
Injuries plagued him in the mid-80s, including knee and wrist problems, as well as a car accident in 1987 that left him with two broken ribs and sidelined for six months. “I had to start all over again psychologically,” Krickstein said about his attempt to recreate his successful career at the beginning of 1988. He came back with a modified service motion, a headband, and within two years, he returned to the Top 10, advancing to his first Grand Slam semifinal (the second would occur six year later), and making his only appearance at the ‘Masters’ tournament, albeit unsuccessfully. In the early 90s injuries haunted him again (the most serious was a broken bone in his left foot, August ’92).
The “Marathon Man” certainly could have achieved better results at majors as well as triumphing in a very prestigious event (let’s say ‘Mercedes Super 9’). His most significant title – from financial point of view – is not listed in his official résumé. It occurred in Antwerp ’91, a year before the event gained ATP status, when the prize money reached a historic high of $1,250,000. Krickstein was typically most effective on hardcourts, but in Autumn ’91, he showcased his best tennis on carpet. He first reached the Stockholm semifinals, defeating specialists of this surface, Michael Stich and Goran Ivanišević, before heading to Belgium, where he dominated four opponents. In the final, he was slated to face Becker, whom had never been defeated before, but unfortunately, the German withdrew due to flu. Krickstein received $250,000, his largest pay-check. A few months later, they crossed paths in Monte Carlo, where Krickstein defeated Becker (6-1, 6-4) for the only time in their eight encounters, and advanced to the final – his biggest one since Rome ’84. He had a similar experience with Ivan Lendl, managing just one victory over the Czech in their eight meetings (Tokyo ’90).
Krickstein’s energetic game-style, which demanded a lot of side running on the baseline because he was deprived of big strokes (he was an ultra defensive player among those 5’11” or taller), coupled with his penchant for long matches and numerous injuries, led to his premature retirement at the age of 28. He ended his career with 12 consecutive defeats, the last occurring at Key Biscayne ’96 against Wojtek Kowalski – the top Polish player of the late 80s/early 90s – who never broke into the Top 100… he was also near to finish his career when defeated Krickstein.
Career record: 395–256 [ 260 events ]
Career titles: 9
Highest ranking: No. 6
Best GS results:
Australian Open (semifinal 1995)
US Open (semifinal 1989; quarterfinal 1988 & 90)
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1 Response to Aaron Krickstein

  1. Voo de Mar says:
    Activity: 1983 – 1996

    Five-setters: 28–9 (75%)
    Tie-breaks: 122–108 (53%)
    Deciding 3rd set TB: 14-10 (58%)

    Defeats by retirement: 7
    Walkovers given: 2

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