Where Are They Now? Johan Kriek
Ever wondered what happened to the fast-moving, straight-talking son of a sugar cane farmer who decided "to hell with national service", opting rather to pursue a career in professional tennis?
A guy who peaked at No7 in the world, won two Grand Slam titles, owned a pet python called 'Monty' and had a voracious appetite for fast cars?
Johan Kriek, if you were wondering, apart from running his own academy, is helping supply water to far-flung communities in Third World countries.
"If you don't have water, nobody lives," Kriek, 51, said sagely from his Sarasota base in Florida.
"On a trip to South Africa in 2005 I met Minnie Hildebrand, who is quite involved in water and sanitation issues. We were invited to go to the World Economic Forum and that was the birth of the idea.
"We started the Global Water Foundation but funding was a problem. Then the economic crisis hit and it became even more difficult. I suppose the situation wasn't helped by the likes of Bernie Madoff. It was really difficult for non-profit organisations. We were able lay a pipeline in Uganda and we supplied water to a community in Ecuador.
"Things are looking better and there is some funding trickling in," he said with no regard for irony.
The indomitable spirit that saw Kriek win matches from improbable positions still stirs his character.
"It's difficult but this is close to my heart. We're not gonna back down," he vowed.
Another project dear to him is his tennis academy but it will soon take on dimensions not even he envisaged.
"I got divorced (from Tish) about two years ago. Other opportunities arose and I moved from Naples. I have a boutique academy here for players from eight to 16."
It is, however, when he starts talking about his Springbok Sports Club and academy that the kid-in-the-candy-store effect takes hold.
"We have secured some European backing and have raised about half-a-billion dollars. This is gonna be huge. We're gonna raise the bar so high we're gonna change the way folks prepare to become professional athletes.
"In addition to the large sports club component, young elite athletes will be trained at our live-in sports academies within the Springbok complex by some of the world's top teaching professionals in their respective sports," he said.
The complexes in California will cater for baseball, basketball, broadcasting, golf, gymnastics, lacrosse, polo, rowing, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, track and field and volleyball.
"We're talking three Olympic-sized swimming pools, 30 soccer fields, eight softball fields and 12 baseball facilities, among others. It's gonna be phenomenal. The world will know about the Springbok after this."
In his playing days Kriek was a plucky, gifted practitioner, although a propensity to blow hot and cold on court provided a self-made ceiling.
"How many guys make it to number seven in the world with almost no coaching?" Kriek countered. "Okay, I had a bit, but nothing compared to what the guys are put through now.
"I was very quick and just happened to be a phenomenal athlete. I was playing off the seat of my pants when I turned professional in 1977. I had nothing.
"Not much has changed in that you have to uproot yourself and leave SA if you want to make it as a pro tennis player. That's why I see no reason why SA shouldn't produce more players in the top 100. We had quite a few when I played and they can do it again. I suspect there are too many chefs in the kitchen," he said with trademark candour.
Kriek won the Australian Open in 1981 and 1982 but attributed that success to a "when the cat's away ... " scenario.
"The Aussie Open wasn't a priority event back then. There was no money, it was played on grass, it was hot and it was then played just after Christmas," he said.
Although carrying less prestige, his triumph in the 1983 SA Open seemed to resonate more with him.
"Winning the SA Open was a emotional high for me. I was able to win a tournament on home soil in front of my fans, my family, in particular my dad, who was wheelchair-bound (George Kriek died a year-and-half ago). I was given a lot of hell by the press who were hounding me but I kept coming back.
"I had a chip on my shoulder. I was an Afrikaner, I had a bit of a rebel streak and an opinion that I wasn't scared to share and people didn't like it.
"It was a wonderful time and it was great to win at home," he added.