With every tennis pundit and fan alike left wondering whether Roger Federer would actively pursue the quest for world no.1 before the Indian Wells Masters tournament in March there was one person who had the answer: Richard Krajicek.
Richard Krajicek, the 1996 Wimbledon champion and former world no.4, has been the director of the ABN Amro World Tennis Tournament of Rotterdam for over a decade. He has had to swallow minor defeats when it comes to players opting out to play his tournament – like Kyrgios was forced to withdraw due to a shoulder injury – but he’s also enjoyed success, signing the biggest names in our sport to make the tournament of Rotterdam a high prestige event.
Needless to say, Federer headlining the Rotterdam field this year, is a major boost for the tournament.
A small part of Krajicek’s job is to exact discretion from time to time. While everyone was sure of the fact that if Federer was going to hunt down the no.1 spot he would play Dubai at the end of Februari, it was Krajicek who kept his jaws wired shut, knowing he was just one call away of being 100 percent sure of Federer joining the draw.
Doing all the promotional work for the tournament he was forced to negate every pending question surrounding either a Nadal or Federer signing. Always answering with a disappointing shrug of the shoulders: “Sadly, no. We have no Federer or Nadal playing this year!”
It was a trademark Krajicek chip-and-charge sneak attack all along!
A look back on the pair’s first meeting on the tour back in 2000 in Vienna.
Here’s how it happened. Krajicek was in America to coach his pupil Tim van Rijthoven. As he woke up monday morning after the Australian Open final he opened up his laptop and saw a mail from Tony Godsick, Federer’s manager. Krajicek recalls the message.
“He reported to me, just hours after the Australian Open final, that Federer was thinking of playing Rotterdam. Roger had a relatively easy tournament and was physically fresh and ready to compete. I’ve had some setbacks in the past and some personal victories as the director of Rotterdam. This was one of those victories.”
Krajicek further elaborated on how yesterday (red. Wednesday) he made the call to Godsick to find out how Federer’s training sessions were going.
“We had already established the contract five days ago. I made the call and inquired how things were going. A couple of hours later we could publish the good news!”
It will be the ninth time the 20-time Grand Slam champion will contest in the tournament of Rotterdam, lifting the trophy in 2005 and 2012. It’s no secret that Federer and Krajicek are good friends and that Federer admired Krajicek’s game when he was up and coming.
It all just goes to show how important having connections is, even in the world of tennis. It’s one of the reasons why we see many big tournaments having popular former players as managers such as Tommy Haas (Indian Wells) and James Blake (Miami): it’s easier to sign the big names. Players are more inclined to do them favors when they’re old buddies. Human nature, really.
With Federer fit as a fiddle and the Dubai tournament in the latest week of February while Rotterdam starting already next week, Federer’s intentions are crystal clear regarding the willingness to top the rankings for the fourth time in his career. Why wait to get to no. 1 until March if he can get there next week?
All he needs is a spot in the last 4.
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