Article on Final; Comments on Capriati's Behavior
Serena battles to Nasdaq women’s title
By Charles Bricker
Posted March 30 2002
KEY BISCAYNE -- Big sister Venus has the long arms and legs, but it’s Serena Williams who earned the nickname “Stretch” Saturday afternoon.
Saving her best tennis for the latter stages of an error-filled but never uninteresting final, Williams gritted out a 7-5, 7-6 (4) triumph over Jennifer Capriati that not only won the Nasdaq-100 Open title but vaulted her back, perhaps permanently, among the elite of the Sanex WTA Tour.
It was a victory that was long on significance and very short on form and flow. The women combined for 11 service breaks and 97 unforced errors.
Yet though it lacked style and grace, it was a watershed triumph for Williams, who fought off seven set points down the stretch and didn’t wait for Capriati to make mistakes on them. She aggressively took six of the points.
The only set point handed her was a Capriati double fault. On Capriati’s final opportunity to even this match at a set apiece, Williams moved well into the court and crushed a swinging forehand volley that brought forth gasps from the full house of 14,000.
“Once I won I was really happy. I was happy about not going to a third set. It was already a two-hour match. I was like ‘Yes!’ I wanted to win this tournament,” Williams said.
She wasn’t happy, however, with 59 unforced errors. “Fifty-nine. That is unbelievable. Oh, my God,” she exclaimed. But, on balance, she definitely was in an I’ll-take-it-anyway mood.
“I made the last points and the points that really counted,” she said.
Of all the remarkable Williams’ achievements the past 11 days, her strength down the stretch of her semifinal and final matches were the salient advances she made at this tournament. It had been a problem for her in big matches at big tournaments in previous years.
In successive rounds, she defeated the top three ranked players on the women’s tour — No. 3 Martina Hingis, No. 2 Venus and No. 1 Capriati — without the loss of a set. The win will push her from No. 9 to No. 7. But those who watched her extend her season record to 12-1, she looks more like top three.
There was another important improvement in Serena Williams here. Gone were the on-court psychodramas and sudden trips to the bathroom when her opponent gathered some momentum.
Where Capriati had been testy and combative with chair umpires, linespeople and even tournament director Cliff Buchholz during the final days of the tournament, Williams was composed throughout.
“I don’t have time to argue over calls. Nothing I can do about it. They’re not going to change their minds, no matter what,” Williams said.
Contrast that with Capriati, who angrily confronted chair umpire Laura Ceccarelli at 30-love, 3-3 in the first set when she thought Williams’ backhand was long.
Eventually, Capriati returned to her receiving position in the deuce court, but not before touching her racket to the ground just beyond the baseline to point to where she believed the ball hit and then to glower at the woman calling the baseline.
She continued gesturing to the crowd over line calls as the match wore on and was still in a snit during her post-match news conference.
“Can you stop that flash, please,” she demanded tersely as photographers performed their usual task while she sat at an interview table.
A few moments later, when asked about her confrontation with Ceccarelli, she claimed she couldn’t recall anything about it. “I don’t remember. I’m sorry,” she said.
It’s hard to know why this match never quite found a groove. Williams would hit two or three sensational shots and follow them with the most inexplicable errors. Capriati would make a couple of brilliant retrievals to force errors, then fail to return a 77 mph second serve.
She broke Williams to win a five-deuce game and go up 5-4 in the first set, but Serena broke back with a scorching backhand down the line at 30-40.
Serving at 5-6, Capriati lost four points in a row, double-faulting at love-40 on an 82 mph second serve into the net that looked more like a push than a stroke.
Capriati broke out to a 4-2 lead in the second set and with Serena serving at 3-5 she had two set points. Williams bashed a couple of service winners from 15-40 and won the game with an overhead.
Serving at 6-5, Capriati had five more set points and couldn’t put it away. Nor could she hold a 3-1 lead in the tiebreak. Serena won six of the last seven points, and for the fourth time in five years, Key Biscayne had a Williams sister in the winner’s circle.