Capriati battles her way to final
The San Diego Union-Tribune
Sunday, August 30, 1992
Author: ED GRANEY
Sie konnte nichts machen.
Nothing she could do.
Take notice, recreational hackers. It happens to the best of them. The pros. The Anke Hubers of the tennis world. You fight and scratch and bang your way into a third and deciding set. Then your opponent finds it, reaches it, enters it.
The 17-year-old German yesterday watched helplessly as winner after winner sealed her fate in the $225,000 Mazda Tennis Classic. The crosscourt killers came off the racket of Jennifer Capriati, an Olympic champion who's making it a habit to tease opponents early before bidding adieu.
Capriati's 7-6 (8-6), 3-6, 6-1 win before 5,200 at La Costa Resort & Spa returned the defending champion to this event's final, in which she'll meet third-seeded Conchita Martinez of Spain this morning at 11.
Martinez, a semifinal loser to Capriati here last year, reached the final by beating unseeded Leila Meskhi of the Republic of Georgia 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2.
Capriati, 16, was awesome in the third set. Another level. Ace after forehand winner after backhand pass after try-and-reach-this beautiful drop shot.
Huber, ranked 10th and seeded fourth, played quite well. And still lost, 6-1.
"I think she play unbelievable in third set," Huber said. "I can't say I play bad. She not miss even two shots, I think. She doesn't miss the whole set."
Also know the first-set tiebreaker. Specifically, the 10th point. That's when Huber, leading, 5-4, charged a Capriati short ball.
Back went the racket. Two-handed smash down the line. A sure winner, it definitely appeared to be. Until . . .
Huber squealed. She dropped her racket. She looked at the linesperson. She shook her head. She looked at the chair umpire. He looked back. No overrule. No 6-4 lead. No two set points. No nothing.
In tennis, fans whistle when they disagree with line calls. At that point, many in attendance puckered up and blew. It wasn't the first time. It wasn't the last.
Said Huber, very convincingly: "Ball was in for me. I can't say for sure I win the set, but it is very good chance I do. The (officials) were really bad, but for both sides."
Said Capriati, not so convincingly: "The (tiebreaker call) was close. I think it was out."
The two had met twice before, with Capriati a straight-sets winner in the first round of the 1990 U.S. Open and in the quarterfinals of last month's Olympics.
This time, as in Friday's quarterfinal win against Zina Garrison, Capriati spotted her opponent a 4-0 first-set lead.
This time, like last time, she rallied. Seems Capriati needs to be wiping away sweat before she shows up to play.
"The real top players would probably close me out," said Capriati, ranked sixth. "(Huber) was playing extremely well, hitting all her shots deep. It was hard to get into it.
"The only time I felt in control was at 3-0 in the third set."
Nor was the second semifinal spared controversial calls. Martinez had a break point to win the first game of the third set, but a Meskhi forehand long was called good.
Pucker and blow.
But then Martinez got mad. And aggressive. And it was over.
"Sometimes that happens after a bad call," Martinez said.
Meskhi said she was the same player that upset top-seeded Gabriela Sabatini in straight sets Thursday. Difference was, change of pace. Sabatini chose not to. Martinez always does.
"(Martinez) is very difficult to play for me," Meskhi said. "It is very tough. I was little tired in third set, but she play very well."
Martinez, citing an injured thigh, didn't put up much of a fight against Capriati here last year, losing 6-4, 6-0.
The thigh is strong, but now she's suffering from an injured right arm. Hurts to hit a forehand. Hurts to serve. At times, it hurts to lift that hunk of graphite she makes a living with.
To stay in the final, she'll have to feed Capriati 's powerful ground strokes many a high ball, hoping such a big forehand sprays error after error.
"I think it will be very difficult for Jennifer," Meskhi said. "High balls give her much trouble."
Maybe so, but her play over the past month makes Capriati a definite favorite. Today's winner receives $45,000 and a yellow Mazda Miata. Capriati got a green one last year. She also owns a Volkswagen Cabriolet. Convertible Kid had to buy that one, though.
"(Capriati) is playing just like she did in Barcelona," Huber said. "Very well."
Indeed, cheered most of the pro-Jennifer fans yesterday. Read a sign hanging from the upper bleachers: "Nobody beats Capriati ."
Not this day. Not Huber, not the pressure of repeating, and certainly not those linesmen.
The top-seeded team of Jana Novotna and Larisa Savchenko-Neiland beat second-seeded Martinez-Mercedes Paz 6-1, 6-4 in the doubles final . . . NBC showed the Capriati match live, but had to switch programming at 3-0 in the third set. Men's pro beach volleyball called. Today's final will be shown on a one-hour tape delay . . . Today is the first time Capriati will defend a tournament title . . . Yesterday's semifinal win was No. 200 in Martinez's career.