NY Times article on Capriati, Seles
fter the Rain, Capriati Wins
By SELENA ROBERTS
rom childhood through her mid-20's, Jennifer Capriati's attention has been poured into a 78-by-27-foot singles court that has represented all phases of her life, from teen trap to escape hatch.
The dimensions are narrow in structure and confining by design. About 20 minutes after she decoded Tina Pisnik's clever slice for a second-round victory, Capriati was not prepared to venture beyond those boundaries yesterday.
It was enough to describe the tedium of a five-hour rain delay, explain her underdog status next to the Williams sisters and examine the flaws of her unsteady serve.
Politics? She was not ready for that topic. At age 26, Capriati may be a first-generation success story on gender equity in sports, an example of what Billie Jean King fought for when she led a boycott for prize-money equality in 1970, but Title IX is a piece of history. Players like Capriati, they are into the here and now. So, she had no thought on President Bush's ideas to change the groundbreaking 1972 legislation.
"I have no idea what Title IX is, sorry," Capriati said.
Once the subject returned to the United States Open, Capriati replied, "Oh good, a tennis question."
It is possible that Capriati understands Title IX — after all, the Tour sent players a leaflet last month titled "Title IX: Its Importance and Impact" — but it was unsettling to some that she might be in the dark.
"It's a little bit surprising," Lindsay Davenport said after completing a 6-4, 6-2 second-round victory over Petra Mandula in a match postponed by rain Wednesday. "But I don't think in her plan ever growing up, ever along her career path, did college really enter her focus."
Universities are directly affected by Title IX requirements to promote gender equity in athletics, but King, a founder of the WTA Tour, is linked at the hip to a movement that set in motion Capriati's ability to earn $2.3 million in prize money last year, during the season of her resurrection.
King resisted the chance to chastise Capriati — even with wounds unhealed after the profane outburst Capriati unleashed on the Fed Cup captain in April — but suggested more player education instead.
"Jennifer's comments present a great opportunity for us to teach more young women and men about the important benefits of Title IX and the impact not only on the world of sports, but our society in general," King said in a released statement. "Even though Title IX was enacted 30 years ago, we can never stop teaching people about the importance of it."
Class dismissed. All eyes returned to tennis from there on a cool, damp day turned chilly night at the United States Open, where hard-core tennis fans in rain slickers awaited a payoff. They received it when the sentimental favorite, Monica Seles, left the cozy Grandstand crowd glowing. Down by one set and a second-set break of serve to Barbara Schwartz, Seles tunneled into a zone and ripped one winner after another, delivering a 1-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2 victory that left fans celebrating.
"Really, the crowd pulled me through," Seles said. "Gosh, I could have lost pretty much without their help, been on the plane back home tomorrow. It's great. It's a great feeling at this stage of my career."
It was a good night for players who punch with two-fisted forehands and backhands. With ninth-seeded Carlos Moya out of sync, Jan-Michael Gambill, ranked 57th, pounced on his opportunity to advance to the third round with a straight-set upset.
After that surprise, the happy stadium crowds dispersed after seeing more tennis than anyone imagined when a daylong deluge submerged the grounds. But once the clouds lightened about 4 p.m., Capriati's match began a session of rapid-fire results, including straight-set victories by second-seeded Venus Williams and ninth-seeded Martina Hingis, along with a merciless 6-0, 6-1, 6-1 second-round rout by Andre Agassi over Justin Gimelstob.
There were no surprises before the night hours after Israel's Noam Okun shook at the sight of having two set points against the No. 1 player in the world. With Lleyton Hewitt in front of him, Okun served a double fault on his second set point in the first-set tie breaker, ruining his last chance to unsettle the combative Aussie. Hewitt then eased into the third round on a 7-6 (7), 6-4, 6-1 cushion.
Hewitt's victory stirred up some intrigue. After tucking away the threat of Nikolai Davydenko, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3, 25th-seeded James Blake advanced to meet Hewitt, one year removed from their controversial encounter. Last year Hewitt made a remark perceived to have racial overtones as he pleaded against foot-fault calls by an African-American linesman that benefited Blake, whose father is African-American. "As I've moved up in the rankings, part of what has helped me to do that is having a shorter memory, forgetting about a stupid shot I hit," said Blake, who has remained above the situation since it unfolded. "That's the same approach I take to the off-court things."
Capriati can only hope the public has a short memory. Her ignorance on Title IX could end up as another unflattering episode in a year that has left her bank of goodwill withering. A year ago, she was a fairy tale character who had risen from the abyss with two major titles. This year, she won the Australian Open championship, but has exhibited a joyless demeanor on Tour.
There is an agitation to her. Instead of giving the Williams sisters credit for powering to the top of the tour, Capriati has belittled their No. 1 and No. 2 rankings, believing they would not have those perches had Davenport and Hingis been healthy this year.
"I think basically Jennifer's attitude is, and the reason she gets pretty testy and irritable is, she believes she deserves to be part of that conversation," said Mary Carillo, a CBS analyst, referring to Capriati's status as the third-place favorite to win major titles. "She feels she's worth discussing in conversations about who can win majors in women's tennis."
Yesterday the discussion about Capriati was outside the lines, a place less comfortable for the No. 3 player in the world.