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January 02, 1987 - Image 16

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-01-02

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

very private person," adds Shaheen.
Rabbi Schwartz, who has played ten-
nis with Aaron, describes him as "very
kind to his rabbi" on and off the court.
One key to Aaron's athletic pro-
wess is his family background. His
father, Herb, chief of pathology at St.
John Hospital, was number seven as a
freshman on the varsity tennis team at
the. University of Michigan. Since only
six played, he quit the team to concen-
trate on pre-med studies. His mother,
Evelyn, was a high school swimmer.
Herb and Evelyn met at the Univer-
---sitrof-Michigan, where she graduated
as a music teacher, and he graduated
medical school. After living in Ann
Arbor and commuting to St. John Hos-
pital on Detroit's east side for two
years, the family settled in Grosse
Pointe to be near the hospital.
Another familial note is that
Aaron's grandfather, Joseph Kricks-
tein, was a rabbi in Utah, Ohio, Mt.
Clemens and Cong. Beth Israel in Ann
Arbor where the youth library is
named after him. Although he lived
with the family at one point, he died
when Aaron was a toddler.
Athletics is a major part of the
Krickstein family life. Aaron was
taken to tennis tournaments as a tod-
dler. He began hitting balls at six, and
entered tournaments a year later. But
his first interest was swimming,
where he became an eight-and-under
champion, setting records that still
exist on the east side. When he missed
a swim meet and was dismissed from
the team, he concentrated on tennis.
"He was a phenom from the word
-0 go," says Joe Shaheen, tennis profes-
sional at Wimbeldon Racquet Club in
St. Clair Shores. Aaron had tremen-
dous eye-hand coordination and the
ability to hit the ball hard at a very
young age. He also has one overriding
trait: "He hates to lose," says his
father."I knew he was special when I
first saw him play at age seven and

eight," says Dr. Krickstein. But when
he won the national championship for
boys 14-and-under at age 13, Dr.
Krickstein knew he was "very spe-
cial."
Aaron has three older sisters.
Kathy began playing tennis at age
nine at the local clubs — Wimbledon
and Lochmoor. She went to the Uni-
versity of Michigan on a tennis schol-
arship. Today, at age 27, she is a direc-
tor of operations at an athletic club in
Tampa. Rachel, 22, graduates this
year in elementary education from the
University of Michigan, where she
played on the golf team. She also fol-
lowed the family tradition as an excel-
lent tennis player and junior cham-
pion, but had to quit due to knee in-
juries. Renee, 21, is a senior at Tulane
University, where she is the school's
number one tennis player and Woman
Athlete of the Year.
The Kricksteins are close-knit
and supportive. Along with hundreds

Aaron on Aaron

Biggest Career Thrill:
"Doing well at the U.S. Open. I got
into the fourth round twice. The first
time it was pretty big when I beat
Gerulaitis in the fourth round. Then,
this past time, I got to the fourth
round. I won a big match."
Biggest Career Disappointment:
"I got up to seven in 1984. It was
disappointing to get a stress fracture
at the end of the year. I missed the last
four months of 1984. Then coming
back in 1985, I was expecting to stay
there. I had a lot of points to defend,
and I lost some matches early coming
back. I lost some confidence."
The Pro Game:
"It's hard to reach the top unless
you have an all-around game."

As a kid, Aaron's first love was swimming.

At age 11 or 12.

of trophies, pictures of all four siblings
at every age line the walls of their
home. The photo album reveals the
children celebrating Chanukah
throughout the years, and the major
family event this fall was a
Thanksgiving reunion dinner.
Since his sisters competed nation-
ally in junior tennis, the Kricksteins
were savvy in the area of instruction
and competition when Aaron began
playing close to 30 hours a week at age
nine, with top instructors. He kept up
that pace until high school at Univer-
sity Liggett, where he often left early
to play opponents across town.
But the opponents kept dwindling
as Aaron's game progressed. At 15,
Aaron made a serious career com-
mitment by attending the Nick Bol-
lettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton,
Florida, where he could finish high
school and get intensive coaching.
His junior career skyrocketed. He
won five consecutive junior national
championships. At 16, he found him-
self too young for college tennis and too

good for junior tennis. After amazing
the tennis world by defeating top
player Vitas Gerulaitis at the 1983
U.S. Open, the timing seemed right for
Aaron to turn pro. "My coach, Bollet-
tieri at the time and my father
thought I was playing well enough,"
says Aaron, "and financially at the
time some pretty good deals were corn-
ing in, so I turned pro."
Life on the pro-tennis circuit,
however, is not that easy. Players con-
tend with fatigue, loneliness and bore-
dom. When he is not playing tennis,
Aaron spends some free time playing
chess. He usually travels with one of
his coaches, Marc Gelina, Joe Shaheen
or Brian Gottfried, a former top ten
tennis player.
For a typical tournament any-
where in the world, "We get in on Sun-
day and he has to play his first match
on Tuesday. I'm still feeling the jet lag,
and I'm not the person playing. So, I
know, it's tough," says Gelina, the
tennis professional at Lochmoor.
There's an enormous amount of

The Mental Game:
"Mentally you have to feel strong
that you're going to win the poits and
come through in the clutch. Hit the
shots and have confidence in yourself."
Sports Psychologist:
"He's been pretty helpful. The few
tournaments he has been with me, I've
really concentrated more on the things
he has told me about. He was at the
U.S. Open.
Tennis Burnout:
"You can make your schedule.
You shouldn't get burned out if you
really like to play."
Drugs:
"We have drug testing at two of
the five major tournaments. There's no V i
problems. (pause) I really don't know.
There could be some, but I don't think
during tournament time." Asked if he
was involved with drugs, Krickstein
replied, "Not me."
Advice to Young Athletes:
"I put all my eggs in one basket. I
was looking toward pro at 13 or 14 . . . I
studied at school and never took it
seriously. It turned out all right for
me. But for other kids — they should
take school first. Look hard at tennis,
but look toward going to college."

pressure on the player; many times the
entire world watches. "No one can
even imagine the ups and downs of his
career. Just the injuries alone are a
tremendous thing to deal with," says
Dr. Krickstein. Probably the most dif-
ficult part is Aaron's age. "He's still
maturing and learning," says Sha-
heen.
Aaron travels about 28 weeks a
year. He played 26 tournaments in
1986, spanning 13 countries from
Ecuador to Japan to Israel. He receives
stacks of fan mail, usually from girls,
from all over the world.
He is well known in Israel where
he won two Grand Prix tournaments.
While in Israel; Aaron has some time
to spend with his cousin, Ami
Maayani, a music composer.
"It's pretty hard work, but there
are big rewards if you do well," says
Aaron. Financial rewards are a fact.
Aaron will make about $140,000 this
year from tournaments, not including
endorsements and special event tour-
naments. When asked about the exact
amount, Dr. Krickstein, who makes
all the final decisions in Aaron's
career, smiled and said, "Aaron makes
a lot of money."
Aaron spent December in Florida
getting ready for the next tennis sea-
son. He will work on his serve; speed
and net game. "I want to improve my
game to reach the highest potential
possible."
When asked if he could change
one thing in his past, he responded
that maybe he should have been a
baseball player. He explained that in
baseball you get a guaranteed contract
if you do well. "In tennis, you've got to
perform to make money. You gotta
win." ❑

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