By Johan KriekEvery year around this time I remember back how it all went for me at my first U.S. Open in 1978 when I arrived by plane from Austria on Eastern Airlines into Miami. It was also the first year the Open moved from Forest Hills to Flushing Meadows and at that time the whole place looked totally different from what it is today. Louis Armstrong stadium was the big center court and now the Arthur Ashe stadium has been built and they cut the top of Armstrong down which, in my opinion, is still one of the greatest center courts in the world because the fans are right there, unlike the Ashe stadium which is "unfriendly" to anyone without binoculars. I arrived in Florida in March of 1978, with a one year visitor's visa, $230 in my wallet and a Greyhound bus ticket to Vero Beach, Florida for the first leg of the WATCH circuit. I did not even qualify in the first two weeks, got my butt beat badly. Thank goodness that happened because it showed me how much better I needed to become and how much more work was ahead. I got to the semis of Bonita Beach, hitchhiked to tournaments and stayed privately with people willing to house us fellas. I won Hialeah and ended up getting third in the first circuit. Next was the Southern Spring circuit in April/ May in the Carolina's. I came in second. I arrived in Florida with a world ranking in the 800's, since I played here and there due to finances in Europe. I lived in Austria with my coach Ian Cunningham and his family at the time. I coached little kids periodically to make money to stay " in the game."I then went to play a couple of American Express $25,000 events in New Jersey. I won one and beat Matt Mitchell in the finals. He was the then reigning NCAA champion. I next got beat badly by Tim Gullikson in Stowe Vermont. I arrived at the U.S. Open in 1978, qualified and reached the quarters by beating Yannick Noah 6-4 in the fifth and getting a huge tennis lesson by then New York crowd favorite Vitas Gerulaitis in three sets at night on center court.While having lunch at the old indoor stadium which was converted back then into a restaurant etc. the IMG rep walked up to me, flipped his business card at me and said, "If you need us call us." A day or so later, Lee Fentress who had started Octagon, sat down with me and explained to me what it meant to be "represented" by an agency. I stayed represented with them for my entire tennis career. I went from a nobody to top ten in the world in less than a year. I got to the quarters again in 1979, lost to Gerulaitis in four this time. I finally beat him indoors in Milan that winter and never lost to Gerulaitis again. We had great matches, beating him in the finals of Monterrey Mexico. In 1980, I beat Wojtek Fibak in a nearly five-hour marathon, after trailing Fibak 2-5 in the fifth set tiebreaker, him serving...I hit five winners in a row to win it. I was spent! I then played the "Iceman" Bjorn Borg in the semis, won the first two sets 4 and 4 only to have the wind come up and derail my serve and volley percentages and Borg beat me in five sets, losing only three games the last three sets. It hurt...but it was my third year on the tour and it takes time to "figure" one's place. I will always say that my ATP career started and ended at the Open. I played my last serious Open in 1989, but due to my torn ligaments in my elbow had no idea I would never play at the U.S. Open in singles again. Some get to say a proper goodbye...some of us just fade away....such is life.