Prologue: Jimmy Connors as Scarface
The recent This is What They Want ESPN 30 for 30 documentary focusing on Jimmy Connors certainly portrayed Connors as a guy who is comfortable with who he is. It reminded me of the “I’m the bad guy” speech from Scarface (a wildly overrated film in my view):
So… what that make you? Good? You’re not good. You just know how to hide, how to lie. Me, I don’t have that problem. Me, I always tell the truth. Even when I lie.
Connors makes no apologies for who he is or how he played. He even asks why anyone would expect him to apologize for trying to win. Connors’ unapologetic nature is an interesting contrast to Andre Agassi’s teetering between bad and good behavior as explored in his autobiography Open.
Krickstein’s Own Remarkable US Open Run
Unfortunately, as successful as Aaron Krickstein was in his career, tennis players whose careers topped out at #6 in the world are rarely the focus of a documentary. Still, Aaron Krickstein reached the US Open quarterfinal round in 1988 by beating Stefan Edberg 7-5 in the 5th set of a classic night match in the round of 16. In 1989, Krickstein reached the US Open semifinal round losing to the eventual champion Boris Becker. In 1990, Krickstein again faced Becker at the US Open, but this time in the quarterfinal round. This match went 4 sets. Krickstein was a great US Open performer. That fact was reaffirmed when he drubbed Andre Agassi in the 1st round of the 1991 US Open. Had Krickstein beaten Connors, he would have had a fair chance of beating Paul Haarhauis and reaching his second Grand Slam semifinal in 3 years.
This is What They Want explored how the 1991 losses to Jimmy Connors stuck with Patrick McEnroe and especially with Aaron Krickstein. Not only did Krickstein lose a match, but Connors has never spoken to him since their famous encounter. Krickstein was also dropped by his coach, the late Tim Gullikson, shortly after that loss. Krickstein did follow-up his loss to Connors with a runner-up finish in Brisbane in late September 1991. Krickstein would add two more runner-up finishes to his career tally after 1991. Notably, he was runner-up at Monte Carlo in 1992. Krickstein won 2 titles after his Labor Day loss to Connors. Clearly, Krickstein did not simply retire after his US Open loss to Connors. He even logged upset wins over Boris Becker, Michael Stich and Sergi Bruguera in his post 1991 US Open career.
Proposed Epilogue to This is What They Want
Aaron Krickstein had a 7-10 head-to-head record against Stefan Edberg. The two would stage another 5 set Grand Slam match. 1995 offered Krickstein a chance to do what Connors did in 1991. Krickstein was not 39 years old, but he also had not spent 160 consecutive weeks ranked #1 or 268 total weeks ranked #1. Connors reached the 1989 US Open quarterfinal losing in a strange 5 sets to Andre Agassi at the age of 37. What Connors did in 1991 was more remarkable for his recovery from a wrist injury and surgery than for his age as he had similar US Open runs in 1988 and 1989 after a tremendous 1987 campaign. Krickstein had an injury plagued career. Still, Krickstein did have a moment to make an improbable run late in his career.
Krickstein entered the 1995 Australian Open at a time when his career was in twilight. He won a 4 set first round match setting up a showdown with the 11th seed Wayne Ferreira who was a strong hard court player with past success at the Australian Open. Kricksetin pulled an upset defeating the South African in 4 tight sets. Krickstein then faced 1992 French Open runner-up Petr Korda in the 3rd round. Krickstein beat the man who would win the Australian Open in 1998 in straight sets.
Krickstein earned a match with Stefan Edberg in the round of 16. Edberg had been 28-5 at the Australian Open over the previous 5 years. Edberg was the 6th seed and won the first two sets 7-6, 7-5. What followed to my mind should exorcize any hangover from 1991. Krickstein won the next 3 sets 6-4, 7-6, 6-4. Coming back from two sets down against a great champion to reach his first Grand Slam quarterfinal since the 1990 US Open was Krickstein’s reward.
Aaron went on to win his quarterfinal match in 4 sets to reach his second career Grand Slam semifinal. Krickstein lost in a one-sided fashion to a red hot Andre Agassi when injury and fatigue took its full toll. Krickstein joined Agassi, Michael Chang and Pete Sampras in the semifinal round setting up an all-US final four. This run was every bit as unexpected as Connors’ run in 1991. Krickstein was not a household name. He had not won 8 Grand Slams. For these reasons, Krickstein’s 1995 semifinal ride has never gotten much attention. Still, on the DVD/BluRay release of This is What They Want, I’d like to see a five to ten minute bonus feature asking Krickstein to re-live his six 1995 matches in Melbourne. It would be great for tennis fanatics. I am also guessing that Krickstein would enjoy giving those insights.
Post Script: Comparing the Two Improbable Semifinal Runs
- First Round Connors d. Patrick McEnroe 4-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4
- Second Round Connors d. Schapers 6-2, 6-3, 6-2
- Third Round Connors d. Novacek 6-1, 6-4, 6-3
- Fourth Round Connors d. Krickstein 3-6, 7-6, 1-6, 6-3, 7-6
- Quarterfinal Connors d. Haarhauis 4-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-2
- Semifinal Courier d. Connors 6-3, 6-3, 6-2
- First Round Krickstein d. Goellner 6-3, 6-1, 5-7, 6-1
- Second Round Krickstein d. Ferriera 6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 6-3
- Third Round Krickstein d. Korda 6-1, 6-4, 7-6
- Fourth Round Krickstein d. Edberg 6-7, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6, 6-4
- Quarterfinal Krickstein d. Eltingh 7-6, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4
- Semifinal Agassi d. Krickstein 6-4, 6-4, 3-0 retired
It was hard to find clips of the 1995 Australian Open on youtube so I put his 1994 French Open second round upset of world then world #2 Michael Stich on instead. Krickstein reached the round of 16 at the 1994 French Open.