Capriati Loses, Hewitt Wins at Open
By HOWARD FENDRICH
AP Tennis Writer
September 4, 2002, 6:46 PM EDT
NEW YORK -- Even when leading, Jennifer Capriati rarely looked happy during her U.S. Open quarterfinal against Amelie Mauresmo. She fretted about Mauresmo's stalling, complained about the music blaring between games, and switched rackets often.
In truth, Capriati's biggest foe might have been herself, and she admitted as much after Mauresmo came back to win 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3 Wednesday.
"It hurts. Definitely hurts. Just a lot of expectation, a lot of pressure put on myself," Capriati said, her eyes red. "There's a fine line, there's a balance. That's not good either, to just want it so bad."
The three-time Grand Slam tournament champion served for the match at 6-5 in the second set, but a double fault and two errors gave away the edge. Capriati also was hurt by double faults in the third set.
She used the words "nervous" and "tight" to describe her play. Later, responding to a question, she added, "Well, I think 'getting tight' is basically saying you choked."
Capriati has lost her last three matches against Mauresmo, who played Wednesday with her left thigh heavily bandaged. The 10th-seeded Frenchwoman, also a semifinalist at Wimbledon, next faces two-time defending champion Venus Williams or Monica Seles.
Defending men's champion Lleyton Hewitt reached the final four by beating No. 20 Younes El Aynaoui of Morocco 6-1, 7-6 (6), 4-6, 6-2. Hewitt's biggest blip was a double fault to cede the third set to El Aynaoui, who had a decent excuse if he was a step slow: His fourth-round match finished at 2:14 a.m. Tuesday.
The top-seeded Australian got help from a non-call in the first game of the last set. At break point on El Aynaoui's serve, Hewitt rushed forward, fell as he hit the ball, and his feet kicked out, with at least one brushing the net -- which should mean losing the point. But the chair umpire, who earlier took a point from El Aynaoui when his foot touched the net, didn't penalize Hewitt.
The stadium was so empty that ushers encouraged fans in the upper reaches to move closer to the court, making a better backdrop for TV coverage.
Hewitt's semifinal opponent will be two-time Open champion Andre Agassi or No. 32 Max Mirnyi of Belarus, who were to meet in Wednesday's final match.
The day's opening singles match started promisingly for Capriati. She broke to 5-4 when Mauresmo double faulted, then served out the first set at love, punctuating it with an ace. Not much later, three forehand errors by Mauresmo -- into the net, then wide, then long -- allowed Capriati to break for a 6-5 lead in the second set.
But Capriati double faulted to 15-30, hit a backhand into the net to set up break point, and sent a forehand wide to let Mauresmo back in it at 6-6. A backhand winner and volley winner by the Frenchwoman ended the tiebreaker.
With Capriati trailing 5-3 in the third set and serving, she saved four match points. It was reminiscent of this year's Australian Open, in which Capriati overcame a Grand Slam final-record four match points en route to escaping a 6-4, 4-0 hole against Martina Hingis to defend that title.
A Capriati comeback wasn't in the offing this time. Her sixth double fault set up match point No. 5, and an errant forehand ended it after 2 hours, 18 minutes.
Capriati generally prefers to play quickly, stepping up to the baseline right away to serve or return. Throughout the match, Mauresmo appeared to do what she could to disrupt that, often waving her hand to indicate she wasn't ready for the next point.
"Every time Jennifer was ready to serve, the other one was doing like that," Capriati's father, Stefano, said, motioning with his hand to imitate Mauresmo. "It was disturbing Jennifer."
That's not all that bothered Capriati, who twice asked the chair umpire if the rock music playing on the speakers between games could be turned down. She also appeared to be thrown off by Mauresmo's tendency to change the pace during points.
"I was paying attention to what I was supposed to do and to me," Mauresmo said.
Capriati knows all about conquering self-doubt and coming back from adversity, on the court and off it. Only 26, she already has shuffled her priorities more than many people do in a lifetime: a French Open semifinalist in 1990, in drug rehab and off the tour in 1994, back on tour in 1996, ranked 267th in 1998, a Grand Slam champion for the first time in January 2001, and ranked No. 1 for the first time late last year.
Back and forth. Back and forth.
Now she's been overtaken in the rankings by the Williams sisters, and has seen them meet for three of the past four major championships.
Capriati wants to be back at the top.
"This has kind of been a new pressure that I've felt -- coming off being No. 1 and having such a great run," she said. "Human beings are the only ones that go over and over and do the same mistakes over and over. We never learn."
Copyright © 2002, The Associated Press