On this day: Aaron Krickstein writes history as youngest ATP title winner


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On this day: Aaron Krickstein writes history as youngest ATP title winner

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 who reached the last 16 as the youngest player to do so at any Major in the Open era!

Jimmy won five ATP titles as a teenager and was the fifth-best player in the world in 1984, never doing much after that and staying away from Grand Slam quarter-finals after Roland Garros 1984. On the other hand, Krickstein won four ATP titles at such a young age but also failed to accomplish his full potential, ending the career with just nine ATP titles and two Grand Slam semis.

Still, his name stands in the record books for one more reason, becoming the youngest player to win an ATP title in Tel Aviv 1983 at the age of 16 years, two 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, switching fouc on a pro career under Nick's guidance.

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

Nonetheless, Krickstein didn't enter the US Open just to stand and watch, defeating another great talent Stefan Edberg 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6(3) in the first round as the second-youngest player to claim victory 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.

It was also the youngest Grand Slam encounter in terms of the average age of the rivals, standing at 16 years and ten months! In the third round, Krickstein took down Vitas Gerulaitis 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4, performing a thrilling comeback at such a young age, in only his seventh match on the Tour!

Vitas was very close to cross the finish line first, having two game points in the final set while leading 4-2, hitting a double fault on each to give the youngster a chance to prolong the clash. Aaron took it with both hands and wrapped up the triumph by rattling off 12 out of the last 15 points, pushing himself over the top with a backhand down the line winner, which would become his trademark shot.

It was awe-inspiring to watch such a young player fighting for every point and giving his best to overpower more experienced rivals with quickness and rock-solid groundstrokes, moving into the last 16 as the youngest player ever at Majors.

There, Yannick Noah took him down in straight sets but Aaron was on the right track, gaining a lot of confidence and proving that at the very next tournament. After the US Open, Aaron traveled to Tel Aviv and went all the way in only his sixth ATP tournament in a career to become the youngest winner of the ATP title, another record that would probably stay for good in his hands!

Krickstein opened the campaign against Henrik Sundstrom and the Swede retired in the second set to send the 16-year-old into round two where he beat Schalk Van Der Merwe 6-2, 7-5 for the place in the quarters. There, Aaron had to work hard to upend the Israeli Shahar Perkiss 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 before taking down Colin Dowdeswell 6-4, 6-4 in the semi-final, earning the opportunity to play for his first ATP title.

The German Christoph Zipf stood between the young American and the trophy 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 7-6, 6-3 to lift the trophy and write tennis history.

In 1984, Aaron claimed three ATP titles (defending the crown in Tel Aviv), standing on four in total just after turning 17 but not being able to keep that pace for too long, staying empty-handed up to 1989 when he was victorious again.

Aaron would finish his career with just nine ATP titles, something no one could have predicted after such an amazing first year on the Tour.