WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND — WIMBLEDON, England -- Richard Krajicek reached up to the sky with a classic fluid motion and came over the top for booming serve after booming serve yesterday to become the first Dutchman to win the Wimbledon men's championship.
However, the winning point, in his masterful 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 bruising of American MaliVai Washington came off a stunningly low backhand that Washington could not handle.
When the ball did not come back, Krajicek went to his knees clutching his racket so hard his entire body shook. As he tumbled backward, a thought hit him.
"Have I won?" he wondered. "Or am I making a fool of myself?"
He was so unbelievably happy that, for a split-second, he wasn't sure.
"It was really like an unbelievable feeling," he said, after joining Boris Becker as the only unseeded men to win Wimbledon. "But then nobody started laughing too much, so I thought I won anyway."
He won in every way, combining a punishing serve with sound ground strokes, volleys and overheads to leave Washington no hope.
But if he was a little mystified by it all, well, there were a lot of reasons.
In this fortnight, Wimbledon already had experienced the unbelievable. For the first time in history, every seed had fallen before the final, including three-time defending champion Pete Sampras, whom Krajicek eliminated in straight sets in the quarterfinals.
The tournament, which experienced rain delays each of six days, including three yesterday, also had its first impromptu pop concert on Centre Court, as aging star Sir Cliff Richard helped relieve the boredom.
And then came the beginning of yesterday's championship and the most bizarre occurrence.
As Krajicek and Washington posed for the official pre-match photos, a streaker rushed by.
"Oh, man," Washington recalled. "Out of the corner of my eye, I see the crowd reaction, and I see someone coming. I don't know, I thought it was weird that a photographer . . . would be coming over on the court like that.
"Then I looked over and I see this streaker. I see these -- you know -- just wobbling around and, geez, she smiled at me and then, she had on an apron -- is that what it was? And she lifted it up, and she was still smiling at me. Then I got flustered and, boom, three sets later, I was gone."
Krajicek also was taken aback, but he considered her antics helpful.
"I know it's a joke," he said. "But I was a little bit tight and then she comes out and, at least for me, it put a smile on my face. I thought, in a way, it was good. At least for me, it broke the tension."
Nothing could break the tension for Washington.
"I was looking for just a little window to climb through," he said, after managing just one break point and one break of Krajicek's serve. "But Richard kept them all locked. His serve today was the difference."
For Washington, the first black man to make it to the Wimbledon final since Arthur Ashe in 1975, there was satisfaction in accepting the runner's-up plate.
"When you come into a tournament with everyone there in the world, the best players in the world, and it's a Grand Slam, and you're still standing on the last day, that's great," he said.
Washington never had made it past the second round here. And Krajicek had not made it past the first round the previous two years.
"As long as four years ago, people said I should win Wimbledon," said Krajicek, 24, ranked 13th in the world. "But I don't agree with them, because when they first said it, I had only a serve. But now I have more shots on grass. Now, I'm following up my serve with a return, and I think my footwork also improved."
His disposition also has been an asset here. He never seemed nervous. He never seemed under pressure, and when he beat No. 10 seed Michael Stich and then Sampras, he never seemed overjoyed. Even yesterday, his first post-match revelation was that he "did not feel too bad."
"I've always heard that, in the eye of the tornado, it's always wind still, and that's what he's like," said his girlfriend, model and Holland TV travel show host Daphne Deckers. "There must be a tornado inside, but outside he's like an ice man."
But yesterday, for a little while, the ice seemed to melt, as Krajicek cradled his first Grand Slam trophy in his arms.
"I feel happy," he said. "And I think back home I've made some people happy, too. Maybe a few kids will pick up a racket because of me."
Men's singles, championship
Richard Krajicek, Netherlands, def. MaliVai Washington, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.
Women's doubles, semifinals
Martina Hingis and Helena Sukova (8) def. Elizabeth Smylie and Linda Wild (15), 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
Mixed doubles, third round
Mark Woodforde and Larisa Neiland (1) def. Jeremy Bates and Nicole Bradtke, 6-4, 6-4.
Grant Connell and Lindsay Davenport (2), def. Jonathan Stark and Martina Navratilova (5), 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-2).
The box score of Richard Krajicek's 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory over MaliVai Washington for the men's singles title:
.. .. .. .. .. .Krajicek .. .. ..Washington
1st serve .. .. .. ..58% .. .. .. .. .. ..65%
Aces .. .. .. .. .. .14 .. .. .. .. .. .. ..5
Dble faults .. .. .. .3 .. .. .. ... .. .. .2
1st-srve pts. .. .. .88% .. .. .. .. .. ..61%
2nd-srve pts. .. .. .60% .. .. .. ... .. .45%
Brk-pt. con. .. .. .5-11 .. .. .. .. .. ..1-2
Net pts. .. .. .. .25-36 .. .. .. .. ...21-44
Baseline pts. .. ..32-60 .. .. .. .. ...18-52
Total pts. .. .... ..93 .. .. .. .. ..... .66
Pub Date: 7/08/96