If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then the road to sporting heaven is paved with good luck. Everyone, but everyone, who is successful at the highest level must have many factors in their favour. Talent counts, of course, but so do dedication, application, good health, timing - and a healthy dose of luck. Not luck in the bounce-of-the-ball sense but luck in being at your best when the time is right. Luck in avoiding Pete Sampras in the first round when you're desperate for ranking points. Luck in not being a middleweight when the heavyweights are taking over. And luck in avoiding the sort of injuries that ravage a career or kill it in its infancy. One man who knows this equation better than most is Mark Kratzmann (pictured above with business partner and former Fed Cup player, Kristin Godridge). In 1984, Kratzmann, the Hong Kong-based former Australian Davis Cup player, simply owned junior tennis. If you think that sounds excessive, consider that he won the junior titles at Wimbledon, the Australian Open and the US Open, and lost only in the final at the French - in the end finishing one match shy of the junior grand slam. A victim twice that year was Boris Becker, not quite 'Boom Boom' yet, but a formidable opponent. When he held up the junior trophy at Wimbledon, and saw the names engraved on it, names like Bjorn Borg and Stefan Edberg and compatriot Pat Cash, all of whom went on to win the men singles on the Centre Court, Kratzmann could be forgiven for thinking tennis stardom was his for the taking. 'I was definitely thinking majors,' he says. 'I thought I was going to do well.' Injury and ill fortune conspired against him in the years following his junior triumphs to the extent that he was never able to achieve his potential. And it was injury that finally forced him out of the game at the age of 28. Greeting the players as they head on to Centre Court at Wimbledon are the words of If, Kipling's ode to Corinthian values, in which they are urged to treat those two imposters, triumph and disaster, just the same. If anyone has done so, Kratzmann has. Kratzmann refuses to be bitter about his career disappointments and 10 years after his retirement from the pro game, he is happily ensconced in Hong Kong with wife Zoe and young daughter Greta, and enjoying life as a professional coach contracted to the Hong Kong Cricket Club. And he's back playing competitively, this time against the senior brigade. Kratzmann will be the sole local resident in the draw when the Tour of Champions returns to Hong Kong this week (at Victoria Park from Thursday to Sunday) after a near five-year absence. There will be no John McEnroe this time, though the American is still active on the circuit, but joining Kratzmann will be two former Wimbledon champions in Cash and Goran Ivanisevic, a former number one in Thomas Muster, two ex-top tenners in Anders Jarryd of Sweden and Henri Leconte, plus Briton Jeremy Bates and recently retired Frenchman Cedric Pioline. Kratzmann plays Ivanisevic in the round-robin draw followed by Jarryd and Leconte and he's looking forward to the challenge, particularly that posed by the mercurial Croatian. 'Goran will be real tough,' says Kratzmann. 'The other two matches could go either way. It's only two sets. You've only got to get one set and then you're looking at the super tiebreaker [first to 10 points]. If you hang in there with Goran he could implode.' Though there has often been as much clowning as tennis in seniors events here, particularly if Mansour Bahrami is involved, Kratzmann is adamant the Tour of Champions is becoming more competitive. With an end-of-season bonus of US$100,000 (HK$780,000) there's greater incentive to win, he explains. 'The skill level is increasing. There's more prestige, prize money. Guys aren't turning up without practising anymore,' he says. 'It's always fun but everyone wants to win. There's no doubles anymore. That's where it's become more serious. Egos are on the line. 'A lot of guys are still serving at 200km/h. But the crowds like it. They get to see more rallies. Instead of brute power they see more finesse, they see dinks, and drop shots.' Kratzmann envisages the tour becoming like the lucrative senior circuit in golf. The over-35 rule has been abolished. Now players are eligible once they have been retired for three months. 'Nowadays guys are burning out a bit earlier than before. Courier quit when he was 28. He's only 34 now. Patrick Rafter's only 32. Richard Krajichek is another who is thinking of playing. 'After a while out playing golf they get a bit bored and want to play again.' A classical serve-and-volleyer like so many of his famous countrymen, the left-handed Kratzmann relied on a strong serve and quick hands at the net to out-manoeuvre his opponents. It was his misfortune that he came along just as power tennis was taking over the men's game, helped to a large degree by racquet technology and the evolution of bigger players. 'Becker changed everything,' says Kratzmann. 'And the racquets definitely helped. I'm serving harder now at 38 then I did when I was 25.' Kratzmann beat Becker in the semi-finals at the junior French Open in 1984 and again in the final at the US Open juniors. 'Boris and I were both young, thin, lanky boys. He was just like me. Nine months later he was serving 20km/h faster and had gone from five-foot-eight to six-foot-two. 'He'd become a big powerful guy. And won Wimbledon. I grew two inches to five-foot-10 but I was still lanky. [At that stage] I couldn't beat the men.' The following few years were frustrating for the young Queenslander. 'I was dogged by injuries and shoulder problems. That set me back,' he says. 'I reached my best ranking of 50 in 1990. I never had a full year. Then I ruptured a disc in my back in '93 and I had recurring problems.' Kratzmann didn't win a singles title on the tour but was very successful in doubles, winning 18 titles - two of them in Hong Kong - and making the final at the 1989 Australian Open with Darren Cahill. He also represented Australia three times in the Davis Cup. 'I made the last 16 at the Aussie Open - I always played my best in Australia - and the third round at Wimbledon a couple of times. I had a couple of match points to go further but I didn't quite get the breaks.' The 1990 season was Kratzmann's best, and pretty much sums up his career - six months of good form and progress followed by six months sidelined with injury. After a strong first half of the year which included wins over several top names, he arrived at Wimbledon full of confidence. 'I got to Wimbledon and had [Michael] Chang two sets to love down in the third round. But he wore me down. That was a missed opportunity. 'A week later I tore a rotator cuff and my year was over. I had a ranking already of 50. Even if you play half as good in the second half of the year you're going to get up to 30.That was a turning point.' Injury was the story of Kratzmann's career, ensuring he was never able to stay healthy for longer than six months. 'I never had a full year. I ruptured a disc in my back in '93 and I had recurring problems.' Kratzmann finally called it quits in 1995 and hardly picked up a racquet for seven years. 'I couldn't serve, I couldn't move. I couldn't do anything to full capacity. I spent seven years recuperating.' Looking back, Kratzmann is philosophical about the career that might have been. 'It's not really disappointing. A lot of factors go into becoming a superstar and all those factors have to come right. There's always someone worse off than you.' He points to the example of Swede Kent Carlsson, his conqueror in the junior French final, who reached number six in the world four years later. 'He looked like he was going to be as good as Mats Wilander, then he did his knee. He was gone at 20,' says Kratzmann. 'Darren Cahill [Kratzmann's friend and doubles partner] was gone at 24. But I had a great opportunity. I got to play all the grand slams, put myself against the best on a daily basis. 'You lose more than you win against those top players but you always remember the ones you win, even if the whole career could have been better.' Kratzmann's says his career highlight was his first tournament win in doubles, at the ATP Championships in Cincinnati partnering fellow Aussie Kim Warwick. 'I was 19. I was ranked 186 in doubles and wouldn't have got in if he hadn't invited me. He was number two. It taught me a lot. It was the starting point. 'In singles the high patch was in 1990. I beat Chang. I won two matches against [Yannick] Noah, who was a hero of mine. I was there when he won the French Open in 1983. I also beat Courier, who was a top-10 player, at the US Indoors in Philadelphia. I lost to Sampras in three sets in the semis. At that point I thought I was breaking through.' Some years ago an American player described the life of a touring tennis professional as a Darwinian struggle for survival in which only the strongest survived. Kratzmann says the tour wasn't quite as grim as that, but it was by no means a soft option either. 'It's hard to keep focused,' he says. 'If things aren't going great you can become unfocused. Specially if you're travelling and losing in the first round. You can get sick of it. You have to be selfish, about things like what you need to eat. Your friends might want to go and get a pizza and you'll say no I'm eating pasta again. 'You justify it by thinking 'I'm winning so that's all that counts'. 'I was lucky enough to do reasonably well. I was in the top 100 and not struggling. So if you lost in the first round you broke even. I was always in the top 30 in doubles [peaking at number five] and though there were a lot of ups and downs there was always money in the bank. 'But you're depressing to be around if you're not playing.'