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Krajicek Captures Rain-Soaked Wimbledon

By Stephen Wilson
AP Sports Writer
Sunday, July 7, 1996 2:22 pm EDT

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) -- Richard Krajicek used his huge serve to overpower MaliVai Washington in straights sets Sunday and win Wimbledon for his first Grand Slam title.

In a match interrupted three times by rain, Krajicek served 14 aces and lost serve only once in a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory.

In the first Wimbledon final between two unseeded players, Krajicek dominated from the start and become the first unseeded champion since Boris Becker in 1985.

Krajicek also became the first Dutch player to win a Grand Slam. Among those watching at Centre Court was former Dutch great Tom Okker, who lost in the final of the 1968 U.S. Open to Athur Ashe.

Washington was the first black finalist since Ashe won Wimbledon in 1975.

The 6-foot-5 Krajicek used his height and power to maximum advantage on his bludgeoning serves. Washington, at 5-foot-11, was left lunging time and again as Krajicek fired down serves at speeds of up to 129 mph.

The match lasted 1 hour, 33 minutes of playing time, but also included rain delays totalling 2 hours, 40 minutes.

After a third interruption of 68 minutes, with Washington ahead 1-0 in the third set, Krajicek came out and ran off 14 straight points to move ahead 4-1.

Washington got his first break point of the match in the next game when Krajicek went down 0-40. He saved one break point but Washington converted on the next, forcing Krajicek into hitting a low backhand volley long.

Washington then held serve at 15 to close to within 4-3, but Krajicek quickly regained command, holding at 15 for 5-3 and breaking Washington for the fourth time to end the match.

Washington, down 15-40, saved one match point with a strong serve. But on the next, Krajicek hit a big forehand down the line and Washington could only hit a backhand into the net.

Krajicek fell to his knees with his arms in the air, then rolled onto his back.

It was a breakthrough victory for Krajicek, who had reached two previous Grand Slam semifinals -- Australian Open in 1992 and French Open in 1993 -- but never quite made it into the elite ranks. His victory ensures that he will move into the top 10.

At Wimbledon, where he had lost in the first round the past two years, Krajicek was best known for his infamous comment in 1992 that most women players were ``lazy, fat pigs.''

In his five-set semifinal victory over Todd Martin, Washington relied on serve returns and passing shots to keep the bigger man at bay. But he rarely found the target Sunday, converting only three return and three passing winners.

Although Krajicek's game is dominated by his serve, he proved again that he is not a one-dimensional player. He kept Washington under pressure with sharp returns and ripped 10 passing shot winners.

Washington made the tactical mistake of repeatedly coming in behind approach shots to Krajicek's forehand, the Dutchman's stronger side.

It was the first career meeting between the two players and the first Grand Slam final for both.

Washington came from behind to win back-to-back five-setters in the quarterfinals and semifinals, but this time never had a chance to get back into the match.

Rain disrupted play for the fifth straight day, meaning that some of the tournament's events will be stretched into a third week for the 14th time in history.

Krajicek, unseeded even though he is ranked No. 13, beat two former champions -- Pete Sampras and Michael Stich -- en route to the final.

The 20th-ranked Washington, who had never gone past the second round in six previous appearances at Wimbledon, benefitted from the rash of upsets and injuries in the bottom half of the draw that eliminated such players as Andre Agassi, Boris Becker and Yevgeny Kafelnikov.

Krajicek received $608,375, with Washington getting $304,187.

There was a light moment before the match when a woman streaker pranced on the court as the players posed at the net for photographs.

The 23-year-old woman, topless and wearing only a tiny maid's apron, ran in front of the players and the Royal Box. She was escorted off by two policemen as players and fans broke into laughter.

Walking to the baseline to begin the warmup, Washington lifted up his shirt to bare his own chest and received a large ovation.

Copyright 1996 The Associated Press

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