“Yes, yes… Jaaajajajajajajaja!” Oh my goodness! Richard Krajicek wins Wimbledon 1996! Fe-no – me-nal. Grandiose!”
Jan Roelfs said this on July 7, 1996 when he was witness to one of the most remarkable achievements in Dutch sports history. Richard Krajicek was the first and only Dutchman to win a grand singles title at Wimbledon 25 years ago.
Roelfs is now a commentator at the NOS and was the only Dutch journalist to report live from London during the historic Wimbledon final. “Only now am I realizing how special that was; a unique moment of Dutch sports history.”
Below are the images of the decisive shot in Wimbledon 1996 final. Listen to Jan Roelfs’ commentary.
Jan Roelfs comments on Krajicek winning
Roelfs was a broadcaster for RTL from 1996 to 1996. RTL was the only Dutch broadcaster with broadcasting rights for Wimbledon. He was sent to the tournament by the new channel as a commentator. However, he didn’t know it would become such a success for Dutch tennis.
Krajicek had not been to Wimbledon for two years. He thought of withdrawing from Wimbledon, he stated years later.
“Ofcourse he went to Wimbledon with no expectations. Roelfs recalls being at Rosmalen as well, where he played poorly and lost in the quarterfinals to Paul Haarhuis.
Richard was always a doubter. He was always bothered by his knee. He had never seen such pleasing results on grass. He has seen his grass grow tremendously. He found a flow.
Krajicek was 17th seeded for the tournament. After wins on Javier Sánchez, Derrick Rostagno, Brett Steven and Michael Stich (Wimbledon winner of 1991), he encountered top favorite Pete Sampras, the American who won Wimbledon in the three years before 1996 and the four years after.
“It all started with Sampras beating. Sampras was the unbeatable champion of Wimbledon in that moment. That was what the whole tennis world was talking to. Richard was suddenly a title candidate, and the hype was beginning.”
De Kraai won against Jason Stoltenberg in the semi-finals. After that, he was able to prepare for the final against Malivai. Krajicek was the favorite against the American outsider. However, not everyone in London was pleased with the final.
Disappointment among colleagues
“Colleagues from foreign media were really disappointed with the poster. Krajicek against Washington was not Sampras against Stich. Sampras is not present in the final, so it’s the same as Federer and Djokovic who do not reach the final.
Roelfs could not have chosen a better experience. “It was an extraordinary day, though I didn’t realize it at that time. Tom Okker reached the semi finals in singles 1978, ed. As a boy, I used to sit in front of the television. Semi-finals are broadcast by the NOS. It was because Krajicek was there in the final that it was so special for me as a teenager.”
Tjerk Bogtstra, Jan Siemerink’s coach, was next to Roelfs during the final phase. He served as co-commentator.
Streaker makes you smile
The final did not go as planned. It all began with Melissa Johnson’s much-discussed act of running into center court in only an apron. “That was a very funny moment. It was a funny moment. I can still remember Krajicek’s smile and grin. He could now relax and play tennis thanks to that joke. I felt that he would win.
“Yes, I also felt tension. After about half an hour, it began to rain again and we had to stop. Bogstra and my joke were: Are you going for a sandwich? The players then returned to the track but it was again rained off after about an hour. Then another. The BBC would have a whole studio program. We would show a picture and a text. It has not had very high ratings. No one will watch an image that does nothing.
“Then commercials had to be broadcast. This was impossible during the rainy season. It was hard to tell an interesting story. It’s why I sometimes wonder: Did there really be a lot of people back then? The BBC was watched by many people.
According to the commentator, the words Roelfs spoke when Krajicek fell into the sacred grass as the winner are not memorable. Roelfs calls it one the highlights of his career, but that doesn’t diminish Roelfs’ experience.
“Wimbledon has become a major global event and people from all over the globe are following it closely. The tennis players of that time were the global sporting heroes. Wimbledon was the largest tournament and Krajicek won it. It’s a beautiful thing, both for Krajicek and for Dutch tennis. Mission accomplished.
In 1999 Krajicek reflected on his triumph march in London in Sport in Beeld. The conversation is below.