American tennis is on the rise with a new generation of players -- Wimbledon champion Andre Agassi, Australian and French Open champion Jim Courier, 1991 U.S. Open champion Pete Sampras and 1989 French Open champion Michael Chang, to name a few.
But before there was Agassi or Courier, there was Aaron Krickstein, who turned pro 10 years ago at 14 and became the youngest player to win a professional tournament when, at 16, he won Tel Aviv.
Now Krickstein, the fourth seed at the NationsBank Classic that begins today in Washington, is at a crossroads in his injury-filled career, still looking for his first Grand Slam title.
"Sure it's hard when all of the guys -- Sampras, Chang, Agassi and Courier -- have all won Slams and I haven't won anything," said Krickstein, who turns 25 next month. "But maybe I'm not quite good enough.
"It's been a frustrating career for me -- a lot of ups and downs -- but all I can do is keep trying hard and, hopefully, not get too discouraged or too negative with myself."
At the NationsBank, Krickstein is trying to salvage a disappointing year. He withdrew from the fourth round of the Australian Open because of a stomach virus and withdrew from the third round of the French Open last month because of a blister on his foot.
"At the French I was really geared up, and I thought that I had a shot to do really well, possibly to win it," said Krickstein, who has won more than $2 million. "The draw was going my way, and I was playing really well. Having to default was hard to handle, especially at that time. The preparation of the six weeks before the tournament were lost."
Ranked 13th and sporting a swollen foot, Krickstein left Paris and went to Britain to prepare for Wimbledon. When he got there, he learned that he was not seeded and subsequently returned to his home in Grosse Pointe, Mich.
Krickstein, who was a finalist in Washington in 1984 and a semifinalist in 1988, received a bye in the first round and will play the winner of the Jonathan Stark-Guillaume Raoux match.
"I haven't played for six weeks and 3 1/2 of those I didn't hit a ball, so it's going to be a little difficult in the first couple of rounds," said Krickstein, who lost to eventual semifinalist Markus Zoecke of Germany last year in the first round. "If I can get past the early rounds and play a little better each round, there's no telling what can happen."