Past and Present Champions Series – Johan KriekTim Strawn
South African-born Johan Kriek became a U.S. citizen in 1982
South African-born Johan Kriek became a U.S. citizen in 1982. Having turned pro in 1978, he went on to win the Australian Open in 1981 and 1982 (d. Denton both times) and was a quarter-finalist (or better) at all four Grand Slam championships.
Johan Kriek’s Singles and Doubles Titles
Kriek won 14 singles and eight doubles titles during his career, reaching a career-high World No. 7 in singles (on 10 September 1984) and No. 12 in doubles (on 15 August 1988). His most memorable victories came over Andre Agassi, Borg Borg, Jimmy Connors, Stefan Edberg, John McEnroe, and Guillermo Vilas. He finished in the year-end Top 20 for six consecutive years (1980-85) and qualified for four consecutive Masters tournaments (1983-86).
At the major championships, he compiled a 25-6 record at the Australian Open, which he first visited as a 12-year-old spectator. He reached the 1986 Roland Garros semi-finals (l. to Lendl); the 1981 and 1982 Wimbledon quarter-finals (l. to McEnroe both times) and, at the US Open, his best result was advancing to the 1980 semi-finals (l. to Borg) after quarter-final exits the previous two years.
From 1993 to 2000, Kriek played on the ATP Champions Tour, reaching the number one senior tour ranking in both singles and doubles. Kriek and his doubles partner, Kevin Curren, won the Wimbledon senior doubles title four times in the row, from 2003 to 2006.
For a short time, Kriek operated his tennis academy in my hometown of Roanoke, Virginia. I was aware of the rumors that he was in our area but knew nothing about his operation. One of my regular tennis customers had a daughter enrolled in Johan’s program and I later learned that he had referred Johan to me for stringing services. That led to a call from Johan asking me to meet with him and of course, I happily obliged. After all, how often does a tennis addict like myself get a call from a Grand Slam champion? We agreed on a date to meet and Johan picked me up. I thought since he was relatively new to the area I would offer to show him around and that this would give us time to chat and chat, we did. He asked me about my background and was surprised to learn that I had worked on the official stringing teams at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open which prompted him to ask “So how does a guy with your talent and skills end up in Roanoke Virginia”? To which I replied “Well, you’re a two-time Grand Slam champion. How did you end up in Roanoke? We all come from somewhere right”? He looked at me and smiled and said touche, good one mate and from that point on we started working together. He would show up at my door with an armload of racquets from his academy students, relax and pull up a chair while I started working on them. Those times were so interesting to me because I never knew where the conversation would go.
At the time, Johan was still playing in the champions series at Wimbledon and he was using Donnay racquets. He asked me if I could match his Donnay frames to the same specs as his old Rossignol racquets. I said sure if you can bring one of those Rossignol’s in so I can spec it out I’ll see if it’s possible for me to help you out. I customized 8 frames and was able to get him fixed up and ready for his trip to SW19. Funny thing though because after the tournament he came back and said “You know what, these frames are actually too heavy for me and my game today” and he asked if I could customize them to different specs.
Johan Kriek’s Tennis Academy
Johan Kriek is currently the owner and operator of the Johan Kriek Tennis Academy in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
To learn more about what Johan Kriek is up to these days you can read a recent interview from Pretoria Rekord. There are a couple of nice videos included in that article too.
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