Rohan Goetzke, Director of the Bollettieri Tennis programme at IMG Academy in Florida, shares his Wimbledon memories
Widely considered to be the pinnacle of the tennis season, Wimbledon is watched by millions of viewers all around the world. Some are fortunate enough to visit the All England Club as a spectator, while fewer still can claim to have played a part in a victorious fortnight at SW19.
Rohan Goetzke did just that when he guided Richard Krajicek to the Wimbledon title in 1996. Now Director of the Bollettieri Tennis programme at IMG Academy in Florida, we asked the Australian about his Wimbledon memories.
On visiting the All England Club: I watched The Championships on TV as a kid but when you first walk in the gates you are in awe of the place. It’s so special – for me it has always been the No.1 Grand Slam. The renovations and the changes they have done I find amazing. It’s a magical place.
My first memory of visiting the All England Club as a spectator was the enormous queues outside. In those days I wasn’t with a player so I didn’t have accreditation and I didn’t know anyone who had tickets. I was amazed they were all there camping in the rain.
I remember one year with Richard we rented a house down there and it was really hot but we couldn’t open the windows because there was a big party going on in the street outside. Another year we had a house which didn’t have a power shower on the second floor so there was no water pressure at all!
When I first went [to Wimbledon] I just had a ground pass but as a coach your access changes; you eat in the players’ restaurant, drive up in the courtesy car and get the VIP treatment. When you are on the inside as a player or coach or official you get used to that and you forget that so many of the fans have queued for hours to be there.
On Richard Krajicek’s Wimbledon victory in 1996: Everyone had said Richard had a good chance of winning on grass. He had a big serve and a big game but he didn’t like grass, he found it very difficult to play on, particularly moving on the surface.
We had words the week before at s-Hertogenbosch because he wasn’t enjoying playing on the grass and wasn’t sure if he even wanted to play Wimbledon. It’s quite funny to think that he ended up knocking out [10th seed] Michael Stich and [three-time defending champion] Pete Sampras.
That said, he ended up being favourite in the final against surprise finalist MaliVai Washington who Todd Martin lost to in the semis after being up in the fifth set. He wasn’t playing Sampras or [Andre] Agassi in the final to win his first Grand Slam so there was huge pressure and he was expected on paper to win.
On the favourites for this year’s Championships: It’s hard to look beyond the big four: Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who have won the four Grand Slams over the past 12 months. Federer is the defending champion and I think grass will be his best chance to win another Grand Slam but I’d have to say Djokovic is the favourite closely followed by Murray, so long as he is fully fit. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga would be my outside bet – he will be dangerous on the grass.
In the women’s draw, Serena Williams, she is the red-hot favourite – and she will be even more powerful on the grass. Just look at her record, the way she is crushing everybody - there is a big gap between Serena and the others. Behind Serena I would put Maria Sharapova, but one player to look out for is Sloane Stephens, who should have a good game for the grass. I have seen her play and I think the grass can suit her – she is a shot maker and she has the ability to do well at Wimbledon.
On IMG Academy alumnus Kei Nishikori’s chances after moving to a career-high ranking of No.11 this week: Nishikori likes playing on grass and he can play well on it, but I think it depends on the draw. Some players like to play certain types of players, while others don’t line up quite so well against them. Can he go all the way and win it? It will be difficult but he can do well there and grass is a surface that can help him. It gives a little bit more on the serve, he has got good timing and movement and grass they can play a lot more from the baseline than in years gone by.