Past winners form proud Grand Slam roll of honour

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 March, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 March, 1998, 12:00am

When Dutchman Richard Krajicek won the Wimbledon title in 1996, he completed a Grand Slam roll of honour for the Salem Open.

It meant that every winner of the Open had also won at least one Grand Slam title. Krajicek was the only one who picked up a Grand Slam title after winning the Hong Kong tournament, which he lifted in 1991.

With Pete Sampras and Michael Chang heading the field for this year's open, which begins on April 6, the 1998 Hong Kong champion could also be one of the elite who have trod Grand Slam- winning ground.

There have been five different winners in eight Salem Opens so far, starting with Australia's former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash, in 1990, American Jim Courier, in 1992, Sampras in 1993 and 1996 and Chang, who won in 1994, 1995 and last year.

With both world number one Sampras and Chang, who recently fell out of the top 10, under pressure to maintain their rankings, the Salem Open provides the pair with a good chance of gaining valuable ATP rankings points.

Sampras narrowly held on to his top ranking at the Champions' Cup in Indian Wells, California.

After going out early in the tournament, he would have been displaced had the Czech Republic's Petr Korda, this year's Australian Open champion, gone on to win the event.

As it turned out, Korda was beaten in the semi-finals and Sampras, who recently celebrated his 100th week at the top of the world rankings, was able to maintain his place at the head of the pack.

But the 10-time Grand Slam champion is not yet safe and needs wins and points in abundance in the next few weeks if he is to open up some breathing space between himself and Korda.

Chang is also keen to improve his ranking after a disappointing second half to last year.

If there is any place to rejuvenate his fortunes it is Victoria Park, which he considers his second home.

Below the leading pair are two Swedes who many consider are also future Grand Slam winners if they play to their potential.

Thomas Johansson was a semi- finalist at last year's tournament, losing to Chang, while Thomas Enqvist, on his day, is capable of beating the best in the world, despite being ranked in the 30s.

There are other players in the field who could lurk as dangers. Germany's Tommy Haas is an up- and-coming player who is capable of creating upsets.

Frenchmen Arnaud Boetsch and Lionel Roux, Czechs Daniel Vacek and Martin Damm, New Zealand's Brett Steven and Zimbabwe's Byron Black are all dangerous floaters who could cause problems for the favourites.

Damm and Vacek will also be aiming for doubles glory.

They teamed up to win last year's doubles tournament, defeating the German-American pairing of Karsten Braasch and Jeff Tarango in the final.

The Salem Open doubles event has featured some great names in the past. The first winners in 1990 were Cash and his Australian compatriot Wally Masur.