QUESTION: As a Wimbledon champion, Iím sure you are excited to play on the grass courts at the Gibson Guitar Champions Cup?
RICHARD KRAJICEK: Yes, I do like to play on grass. There are not too many players who feel really comfortable on grass, but my game was made for it. I played in the days of Sampras, Rafter and Ivanisevic, the great grass court players. Now itís all baseliners. The grass has changed, players tell me. Itís slower, and therefore it is more difficult to play serve and volley. I believe it is a shame because I always liked watching contrasting players. Like Borg against McEnroe, Lendl against Edberg and Rafter against Agassi. Not that tennis is less interesting to watch nowadays. For me the Wimbledon final this year was one of the best, if not the best Wimbledon final ever. Nadal is such an impressive player! He has taking tennis to a new level of fitness. And Roger Federer is of course a treat to watch.
QUESTION: When you won Wimbledon in 1996, you had probably the best win of your career, defeating Pete Sampras on Centre Court. Tell us a bit about that match and subsequently going on to win the title?
RICHARD KRAJICEK: My kids Emma and Alec saw the wall of honor in the players lounge at Wimbledon this year. It says: Ď1993 Sampras-1994 Sampras-1995 Sampras-1996 Krajicek-1997 Sampras-1998 Sampras-1999 Sampras-2000 Samprasí. And they actually felt bad for Pete! They had met him two months earlier in Athens at an Outback Champions Series event and he hit a few balls with them. My kids really liked him, of course, because Pete has always been an easygoing and approachable guy. I said: ďListen, Peteís got seven of those trophies, Iíve got one, so donít feel bad for him, be happy for me!Ē Beating Pete in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 1996 felt amazing, but I knew it would mean nothing if I would have lost in the next round. It wasnít over yet. I wanted the whole Championship. Winning Wimbledon changed my life. Iím not a tattoo kind of guy, but I can understand why Goran has ĎWimbledon Championí tattooed on his back. Itís just the highest high.
QUESTION: Tell us a bit about the field at the Gibson Guitar Champions Cup and how you stock up against the competition?
RICHARD KRAJICEK: Well, the field looks really great, so itís not going to be easy. Some guys practice a lot, but Iím also a tournament director, a manager and I have my own Foundation. But I love just being out there, smell the grass - not in the Dutch way - and have fun. My wife and kids cannot come, because they have school in Holland, but maybe thatís for the better. When I lost a very close match to Pioline in Qatar, Emma and Alec both started crying! Alec, who is seven, is a great little player but also a very critical coach. When I win, he says things like: ďGreat dad - but those volleyís todayÖ not so great.Ē So when I lose, I get no dessert.
QUESTION: How do you like the competitive nature of the Outback Champions Series? Do you like that there is prize money on the line in every match?
RICHARD KRAJICEK: It is nice when there is something extra at stake, but all players competing in Gibson Guitar Champions Cup, they hate to lose, so even if we would not play for money, there would be great competitive matches as well.
QUESTION: How will it feel for you facing Mal Washington on Saturday on a grass court Ė will that rekindle memories of your Wimbledon final?
RICHARD KRAJICEK: I havenít seen him in a long time. When I won the Key Biscayne final in 1998, he was commentating my match. Itís a shame his injuries prevented him from having the career that he should have had. But heís a wonderful person, doing great work with his foundation for underprivileged kids. I am looking forward to playing him again on grass. I am sure it will bring back some memories.