Capriati brings New Year cheer to orphanage
<br />UNUS ALLADIN
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** Jennifer Capriati looked back at her father, Stefano, probably feeling she was a whole lot more fortunate than a group of underprivileged youngsters whom she visited at one of Hong Kong's oldest orphanages, the Po Leung Kuk.
The two-time Grand Slam champion signed autographs, posed for photos, handed out gifts and captivated a small audience of happy children with her presence. And she said she wished she had more time to spend with them. "I'm very happy to part of it. Whatever I can do to make things better and to help these kids I would. This visit has made my day and I hope I have made their day too," said Capriati.
Stefano watched his daughter's every move, saying she had done a lot of charity work, taking a special interest in the March of Dime, a non-profit organisation based in New York dedicated to improving the health of babies by reducing birth defects and infant mortality. "If she had more time she would spend more time on her charity work, but as you know she must spend a lot of time on the tennis court training and practising," said Stefano.
"She was voted the best woman athlete at the March of Dime and she's into charity and just loves children. She would rather do charity work than hit balls. She's happy with the children.
"Yes, she's lucky," he said surveying the orphanage. "She's lucky to do what she likes and to achieve what she has achieved. She's lucky to be healthy. She is doing what she loves best and that's playing tennis. I suppose she's also lucky to have parents like us."
Jennifer Capriati smiled to the children and waved goodbye to them after her 60-minute visit and it was business as usual as she returned to Victoria Park for several hours of practice. "I love children and some day I hope to have my own," said 25-year-old Capriati. "A boy and a girl would be nice."
Asked whether she would coax her children to take up tennis, the reigning Australian and French Open champion said: "I will show them a racquet and let them decide whether they want to or not."
Capriati said she felt "pretty good" and that she wasn't thinking too much about the Australian Open, which will be held later this month in Melbourne. "I'm a bit nervous [going into the Australian Open] but it's nice to go there as the defending champion. The feeling is different this time. But I am not going to think too much about it. I am going to take it one match at a time. As long as I am feeling good physically, I should do OK. Let's see what happens," she said.
Her french physical trainer, Chantal Menard, a one-time world kickboxing champion, says Capriati is heading into the Australian Open in better shape than last year. "But there's always room for improvement. She's alright now and she's ready for Australia.," said Menard, the 1997 women's kickboxing champion.
"Jennifer likes to keep fit by doing kickboxing. There are similarities between the two sports. The movements are very close. We do a lot stretching and Jennifer wanted to do something different than doing the same old exercise routine. She has fun doing it and I think it has made a difference. She is very strong now."