October, 15, 1983: The day 16-year-old Aaron Krickstein became the youngest-ever winner of an ATP title

Every day Tennis Majors takes you back in time to celebrate a great moment in tennis history. Today, we go back to 1983 to witness how Aaron Krickstein, aged only 16 years and two months, defeated Christoph Zipf to become the youngest winner of an ATP tournament in history

Aaron Krickstein, On this day

What happened exactly on that day?

On this day, October 15 in1983, Aaron Krickstein defeated Christoph Zipf in the final of the Tel-Aviv Open 7-6, 6-3. With this unexpected triumph, the teenager, who was one of the first players who trained at the Nick Bollettieri Academy, became the youngest player to ever lift a trophy on the ATP Tour. 

The players: Aaron Krickstein and Christoph Zipf

  • Aaron Krickstein: the rising American teenager raised at the Bollettieri Academy

Aaron Krickstein, born in 1967, was one of the first prodigies to have been raised at the Bollettieri Academy in Florida along with Jimmy Arias, who was three years older than him. In 1983, at the age of 16, while Krickstein was winning the U.S. National 18s titles in the Indoor, Clay, and National categories, he took his first steps on the ATP Tour. His initial results were disappointing until the US Open, where he defeated another rising star, Stefan Edberg, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 as well as world No 16 Vitas Gerulaitis 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4. That propelled Krickstein into the fourth round, where he was defeated by Roland-Garros champion and world No 4 Yannick Noah 6-3, 7-6, 6-3.

  • Christopher Zipf: promising junior trying to find his way on the ATP Tour

Christoph Zipf, born in 1962, was a promising junior player who won the U-18 European Championships in 1979 — the same year he reached the quarter-finals of the boys event at Wimbledon. However, he did not obtain the success he had hoped for on the ATP tour, and at the end of 1983 he had yet to qualify for the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament.

The place: Tel-Aviv

The Tel-Aviv Open was established in 1978 and its first two editions were won by Dutch legend Tom Okker. The tournament was not held in 1982, but in 1983, it was back on the Grand Prix schedule.

The facts: Krickstein beats Zipf to become youngest champion

In October 1983, despite his young age, Krickstein was well known among tennis fans. He was one of the first American players to play on the tour after having been raised with military discipline at the growing Bollettieri Academy. A few weeks before the Tel-Aviv Open, Krickstein had made himself quite famous by becoming the youngest player to ever reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament. He achieved that feat at the US Open with a prestigious win over Vitas Gerulaitis, who was still ranked No 16 at the time.

In Tel-Aviv, once he had eliminated world No 24 Henrik Sundstrom 6-3, 1-0 (ret.) in the first round, Krickstein became one of the tournament favorites. In the final on October 15 he faced Zipf, who was also playing his first final on the ATP Tour. It was only Krickstein’s sixth appearance in a professional event, but he mastered his nerves and prevailed 7-6, 6-3. He was the youngest player to ever win a tournament on the ATP Tour, a record still intact almost 40 years later.

Five youngest winners of a tournament on the ATP Tour:

  1. Aaron Krickstein, 1983, Tel-Aviv (16 years, 2 months)
  2. Michael Chang, 1988, San Francisco (16 years, 7 months)
  3. Lleyton Hewitt, 1998, Adelaïde (16 years, 10 months)
  4. Guillermo Perez-Roldan,1987, Munich (17 years, 6 months)
  5. Boris Becker, 1985, Queen’s Club (17 years, 7 months)

What next: Krickstein reaches No 6 in the world

Despite a career plagued by injuries, Aaron Krickstein would still accumulate nine titles and climb as high as world No 6 in 1990 a few months after having achieved his best Grand Slam performance at the 1989 US Open, where he reached the semi-finals (defeated by Boris Becker 6-4, 6-3, 6-4). His last appearance on the ATP Tour came in 1996.

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