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Flying Dutchman still grounded

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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It should come as no surprise that "The Flying Dutchman," Richard Krajicek, is in the midst of battling yet another injury, as a rash of ailments over the years have prevented the powerful star from reaching his true potential.

The 29-year-old's latest setback is the result of a stubborn elbow injury which has kept him from playing singles for nearly five months. The 13-year pro, a specialist at serve-and-volley tennis, has not been able to pinpoint his return, but I would expect him to perform at the lucrative Tennis Masters Series-Monte Carlo event later this month. The Monaco extravaganza gets underway April 16.

The 1996 Wimbledon champion failed to produce a singles title for the first time in 10 years last season after rattling off at least one championship in nine consecutive campaigns. Krajicek also lost a streak of finishing in the Top 20 after landing on that season-ending chart for eight straight years. He played in his fewest number of matches in a season (41) due to arthroscopic knee surgery that was performed on January 31, 2000.

The towering Dutchman, plagued by creaky, tendinitis-ridden knees for a good portion of his career, has undergone numerous arthroscopic surgeries and he's also been slowed by various elbow and shoulder problems.

When healthy, the athletic Krajicek has proven he can beat anyone in the game -- including American greats Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.

How many players can say they hold a winning record against the legendary Sampras? Krajicek can, as he boasts an impressive 6-4 mark against his fellow serve-and-volley star.

It was Krajicek who spoiled Pete's bid for a fourth straight Wimbledon crown in '96 and became the first-ever Dutchman to grab a Grand Slam title by routing another American, MaliVai Washington, in the final. Krajicek stopped Sampras in straight sets in the quarterfinals that year en route to capturing his one and only Slam.

The huge win marked the first of four straight victories by Krajicek over Sampras. But Pete has won the last two encounters, including a four-set victory over his Dutch nemesis in the quarterfinals of last year's U.S. Open.

Sampras and Krajicek are the only men over the last eight years to corral the coveted singles title at Wimbledon.

Outside Wimbledon, the formidable Krajicek has also hoisted trophies at Tennis Masters Series events in Miami (1999) and Stuttgart (1998), and reached the Stuttgart final three straight years from 1997-99. Krajicek's also been a runner-up at Tennis Masters Series tourneys in Rome (1996) and Toronto (1998), and he's a respectable 3-3 versus the brilliant Agassi, including a current two-match win streak that dates back to 1998 (Toronto).

For his size, the 6-foot-5 Krajicek is remarkably nimble on the tennis court. And when he follows up his thundering 135-mile-per-hour serve to the net...the Dutchman's an imposing force.

Krajicek typically plays his best tennis in big matches, as evidenced by the success against Sampras and Agassi. He also held his own against the likes of former greats Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker. Krajicek was 4-3 all-time against the two-time Wimbledon champion Edberg and 4-4 versus the three-time Wimbledon titlist Becker. He's also 7-3 against the one-time perennial Top-10er, Michael Chang.

Krajicek's uncomfortable elbow will prevent him from representing Holland when it battles Germany in Davis Cup quarterfinal action this week in Den Bosch. His only competitive action of the year came in the form of doubles at Indian Wells -- where he and partner Sjeng Schalken bowed out in straight sets in the first round against rising Swiss Roger Federer and slugging Slovakian Dominik Hrbaty. The Rotterdam native/Muiderberg resident was absent when his compatriots trounced defending champion Spain, 4-1, in opening-round Davis Cup action in February.

Krajicek owns 17 career singles titles and has pocketed nearly $10 million in prize money. His career-high ranking came in '96, when he placed seventh for his second-ever Top-10 finish. He also placed in the Top 10 in 1992, '98 and '99, finishing 10th on all three occasions.

Krajicek was 35th in the ATP Champions Race by the end of 2000, and he's currently 37th in the tour's Singles Entry System, a.k.a. the official world rankings.

Off the court, Krajicek is married to beautiful Dutch model/actress Daphne Deckers, who snared a small role in Pierce Brosnan's big James Bond film "Tomorrow Never Dies" in 1997. Krajicek and Deckers, who tied the knot in 1999, have two children -- three- year-old Emma and baby Alec, who will turn one next month.

Deckers has also appeared in a pair of non-Bond films -- 1993's "Remember" and 1997's "All Stars."

In February of 1999, as part of a celebration for the Royal Dutch Tennis Association centenary, the Dutch Postal System released a stamp featuring Krajicek, who became an instant national hero by titling on the ancient lawns of the All-England Club in '96. And in September of '99, Nike dedicated its new European headquarters in Hilversum, and Krajicek was one of four athletes to have an office building named after him.

So what if he hasn't reached his full potential. At least Krajicek's place in the annals of Dutch sports history is safe and secure.


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