Interview by Fred Buddenberg published in the 18 April 2015 print edition of Dutch daily Trouw (page 24).
“Completely healthy and very happy.” Michaëlla Krajicek answers a question about how she’s doing with a big smile. She knows it has not always been so in her turbulent career. Now, at age 26, the tennis star has found the peace that she longed for so often on her way to adulthood.
“In my head, everything is fine.” Krajicek is in Den Bosch, where the Dutch Fed Cup team is competing with Australia for a place in the World Group. “I’m getting married, I get a lot of support from Richard, and everything with my father is quiet and good. And that has a positive influence on me. Also, I’m older now and I look at things differently.”
Since her professional debut in 2003 (!), Krajicek’s career has been erratic, to put it mildly. Triumphs and tragedies followed in rapid succession, both in sports and on a personal level. “In life, things sometimes happen on purpose, it seems,” said Krajicek. “There are maybe one or two things I can blame myself for.”
For example, the choice of Allistair McCaw, the South African conditioning coach with whom she also had a personal relationship. “That was my own choice, but a very bad one,” says Krajicek about her first ex-boyfriend. “I was just 19 years old and didn’t really think. Looking back, I wonder: how stupid can you be? These are things you need to learn from. I paid the price.”
That relationship was not good for her tennis and also caused a rift between “Misa” and father Petr, for years his daughter’s coach. Petr didn’t hide his distaste for McCaw. After Krajicek’s elimination at Roland Garros in 2008, he called him a “tennis-illiterate.” It was a difficult time for Krajicek, with one foot on the threshold to adulthood. “My father was always so close to me, and from one day to the next, he was no longer there. For example, during training—all of a sudden, everything was different. He meant well, but it should have gone differently. It was also my own stubbornness.” She laughs, “Yes, stubbornness runs in the family.”
“I have had two periods, when I thought: ‘I’m done with it.’ Because of a lack of results. It wasn’t because I didn’t like tennis. I was also often asked if I still had goals, why I didn’t retire. But tennis is my sport and I feel I have achieved a lot.”
With her mind at rest, Krajicek decided to give her singles career another serious chance. In recent years, she was mainly active as a doubles player, and not without success. With Czech Barbora Strychova, she is now ranked 15th on the WTA doubles list of 2015. Yet she also wants to continue on her own, as she thinks she isn’t finished yet.
“I think I still have a lot to prove to myself. I still believe in it, and my knee is currently quite good. The ultimate goal is to improve my best ranking, but that is still very far. I have done a lot to get much fitter: for instance, with my diet and by getting a new fitness coach, James Fitzpatrick. I’m excited.”
Krajicek has three single titles, reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2007, and had a career-high ranking of 30 in February 2008. Last week in Dijon, she got back to playing singles again after an long time ranked 441 (!). “As I don’t like to play on clay, I’ll mostly play doubles until Roland Garros. After that, I will really focus on singles.”
An important detail in Krajicek’s return is whether the body can last. Two ankle and three knee surgeries didn’t do her career any good. “At the end of last year, I was treated with blood plasma,” Krajicek said. “Your blood goes into a machine and is then transferred to the knee. It worked perfectly and now my knee feels very good. I can’t complain—and let’s hope it stays that way.”
“After my last knee surgery in 2012, a doctor said I had a forty percent chance I would again walk without pain. Sometimes I watch old videos of me exercising in the water. I just had to stand on that leg and I couldn’t—that’s how bad it was. Anyone can say anything, but I have shown that I have the willpower. Even my father, who is always very strict and criticizes everything, is proud that I persist.”
Translated by Nicole Lucas.