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Krajicek thriving on new responsibilities
Pritha Sarkar | February 21, 2005 12:33 IST
Former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek has made an apparently seamless transition from tennis player to tournament official.
The Dutchman now cuts an impressive figure in his dark designer suits striding the corridors of the Ahoy arena in his role as tournament director of the World Indoor Tournament in Rotterdam.
"I was insecure for a bit after I retired. The first two months after I retired I felt great as it was like a holiday and then for a few months I was in a black hole and felt completely depressed," Krajicek, the only Dutchman to win a Grand Slam title, said.
"One of the reasons I went into a black hole was because I was thinking too much about the future and then I decided to enjoy life now.
"I've had a great career and decided to enjoy what's coming out of that career. I don't have a big 10-year plan or even five-year plan but will see what comes my way.
"It's tough for me as I'm a planner and a worrier and that sometimes makes me feel like I want to control everything.
"Now I'm involved with this tournament and I work with a bank and advise them on how to improve the service for athletes.
"I also have a foundation for kids and enjoy things like creating playgrounds in the middle of inner city neighbourhoods and promote sports.
"If it comes to a point when no one is interested in this or me as a tournament director, then I'll look at something else."
As one of the most famous sporting idols in the Netherlands, it is unlikely people will lose interest in Krajicek's projects in the near future.
His profile has already helped the tournament to attract record crowds ever since he took over at the helm last year, breaking the 100,000 barrier on both occasions.
The son of Czech parents, Krajicek started playing tennis at the age of four and won the Under-12 and 14 national championships. He was the only man to beat Pete Sampras at Wimbledon between 1993 and 2000, knocking out the American on the way to winning the 1996 title.
After living an isolated life as a tennis player, Krajicek has had to let go of his inhibitions to deal with being the face of this week's Rotterdam tournament.
The winner of 17 titles during a 12-year career, Krajicek felt he could use his experience as a competitor to his advantage in his role as tournament director.
Being a former professional, however, he has not spared the 33-year-old from criticism by current players.
"With playing the stress is black and white, you win or you lose," said Krajicek, who now plays on the Seniors Tour.
"Being a director there are so many things you deal with as there are some things you don't have control over.
"You have to deal with players being upset with you but you have to make decisions.
"Like with scheduling, I asked Dutch top player [Raemon] Sluiter if he wanted to play on Monday. He said no problem and I put him on Monday afternoon.
"But later he lost and said he would rather have played in the evening as there is a better atmosphere. So there was a miscommunication.
"These little mistakes do worry me and I think I should have done things differently. Some people have accused me of only putting commercial things first before the players but I don't think I'm that type."
Dealing with controversy is nothing new for Krajicek, who early in his career made headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Referring to the demands made by women for equal pay at Grand Slam events, the Dutchman said at Wimbledon in 1992: "Eighty percent of the top 100 women are fat pigs who don't deserve equal pay."
More than a decade later, Krajicek, who is married to former James Bond Girl Daphne Deckers, still regrets that comment.
"It was very disrespectful and it wasn't nice thing to say," the soft-spoken Krajicek said.
"I'm a shy person and the last thing I wanted was to draw attention to myself. I was very surprised [with the impact].
"Even 13 years after it happened, people remember it but I don't mind as long people remember the good things, then I don't mind the bad things.
"For a long time I was afraid to say anything. I really learnt my lesson the hard way but that experience made me the person I am."