October 15, 1983: Aaron Krickstein becomes the youngest ATP champion


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October 15, 1983: Aaron Krickstein becomes the youngest ATP champion

Nick Bollettieri opened his tennis academy in 1978 and one of his most promising students in the early years were Aaron Krickstein and Jimmy Arias. They both burst upon the scene at the US Open 1983, with Arias becoming the third youngest semi-finals at this event, and Krickstein reaching the last 16 as the youngest player to do so at any Major in the Open era! Jimmy won 5 ATP titles as a teenager and he was the 5th best player in the world in 1984, but he never did much after that, reaching no Grand Slam quarter-finals after Roland Garros 1984.

On the other hand, Krickstein won 4 ATP titles at such a young age but he also failed to realize his full potential, ending the career with just 9 ATP titles and 2 Grand Slam semis. Still, his name stands in the record books for one more reason, as he became the youngest player to win the ATP title in Tel Aviv 1983, at the age of 16 years 2 months and 14 days! Aaron almost skipped the junior events, playing only Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 1983, beating Boris Becker in Paris and losing to Stefan Edberg in London, and he was focusing on a pro career under Nick's guidance.

He made a professional debut in Philadelphia in January 1983, and he also got a chance to play in Rome, Washington, and Indianapolis. 15-year-old was still not good enough to compete at this level, but that was about to change in New York, where he had a chance to experience the atmosphere of the big scene (he earned the place in the main draw after winning the national U18 title at Kalamazoo).

Nevertheless, Krickstein didn't enter the US Open just to stand and watch, defeating another great talent Stefan Edberg by 6-3 6-2 3-6 4-6 7-6(3) in the first round, as the second youngest player who won the match at the US Open at that time, after his academy friend Arias who was 18 days younger when he notched his first win in 1980.

This was the youngest Grand Slam match in terms of the average age of the rivals, standing at 16 years and 10 months! In the third round, Krickstein took down Vitas Gerulaitis by 3-6 3-6 6-4 6-3 6-4, performing a great comeback at such a young age, in only his 7th match on the Tour! Vitas was very close to cross the finish line first, having 2 game points in the final set while leading 4-2, but he double faulted on each to give the youngster a chance to stay in the match.

Aaron took it with both hands and he wrapped up a win by rattling off 12 out of the last 15 points, pushing himself over the top with a backhand down the line winner, which will become his trademark. It was really impressive to watch such a young player fighting for every point and giving his best to overpower more experienced rival with quickness and rock solid groundstrokes.

As we already said, Krickstein was the youngest player who reached the last 16 at Majors, facing Yannick Noah (he lost in straight sets) when he was 16 years 1 months and 4 days old, and his record will probably stay safe for good because it is hard to see a player at his age at Majors these days, not to mention they have to win 3 matches first.

After the US Open, Aaron went to Tel Aviv, and he went all the way in only his 6th ATP tournament in a career, to become the youngest winner of the ATP title, another record that is safe in his hands probably for good! Krickstein opened his campaign against Henrik Sundstrom and the Swede retired in the second set to send the 16-year-old into round 2, where he beat Schalk Van Der Merwe 6-2 7-5 to reach the quarters.

There, he had to really work hard to upend Israeli Shahar Perkiss by 6-4 4-6 7-6, and Colin Dowdeswell fell in the semi-final by 6-4 6-4, giving Aaron the opportunity to play for his first ATP title. German Christoph Zipf waited for him there and this was a big match for him as well, never reaching the Top 100 and playing in his first and only ATP final.

Still, Krickstein prevailed by 7-6 6-3 to lift the trophy and write tennis history. In 1984, Aaron won another 3 titles (he defended Tel Aviv crown), standing on 4 in total just after turning 17, but he couldn't keep that pace for too long, staying empty handed all the way up to 1989 when he was victorious again.

He will finish his career with just 9 ATP titles, which no one could have predicted after a stellar start of his career. The youngest ATP title winners in the Open era:

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