TENNIS; Capriati Succumbs to Pressure As Sabatini Steps to Semifinal
New York Times
January 22, 1992
MELBOURNE, Australia, Jan. 21— Jennifer Capriati, with tears welling in her eyes, struggled to explain a collapse that led to her ouster from the Australian Open today and instead found herself pouring out the frustrations of a 15-year-old rising star on the women's tennis circuit.
Capriati hit six straight unforced errors to begin a second-set tie breaker against Gabriela Sabatini, who went on to win the quarterfinal match, 6-4, 7-6 (7-1). Capriati's only point came on a backhand cross-court winner.
"I think there's a lot of pressure from everyone," said Capriati, who is playing here for the first time and is trying to win her first Grand Slam event.
"It is becoming too serious," she said of tennis, "and I'm feeling it more."
Capriati was clearly missing the carefree approach that once punctuated her approach to the game. But she could not explain precisely what happened.
"It happened so fast," said Capriati, seeded fifth. "I didn't have time to think about it. I'm disappointed with myself. There were times, especially in the tie breaker, when I wasn't there at all."
Capriati said her disappointment and the stress she feels come because she thinks she could move higher in the women's rankings than her current sixth.
"I have to really work at it," she said. "Of course, it's still fun, but I have to really concentrate now, settle down and think about it."
The 21-year-old Sabatini, who has a 10-5 lead in meetings with Capriati, said she understood. Sabatini had been there herself before winning the 1990 United States Open title.
"Everybody has to go through those moments," said Sabatini, seeded third. "I've been through that. It was very difficult. I had my doubts about my tennis. I wasn't enjoying tennis. But if you work hard and be patient, one day everything started to be open."
Capriati has reached the semifinals of the United States Open, Wimbledon and the French Open. In the United States Open, she served for the match but went on to lose to Monica Seles.
Today, Seles advanced to a semifinal match with Arantxa Sanchez Vicario by defeating 12th-seeded Anke Huber, 7-5, 6-3. The fourth-seeded Sanchez Vicario advanced when her opponent, ninth-seeded Manuela Maleeva Fragniere, pulled out with a tendon injury to her big toe.
Sabatini will next meet seventh-seeded Mary Joe Fernandez, who beat Amy Frazier, 6-4, 7-6 (8-6).
Sabatini played smart tennis against Capriati. In fact, her performance was reminiscent of the tennis she played to win the 1990 United States Open.
The Argentine hit several exquisite high backhand volley winners during the 1-hour-44-minute encounter, the most impressive being her second match point in the tie breaker. That was the point that put her into the semifinals.
The match began with Capriati moving to a 4-2 lead, breaking Sabatini's serve twice. But Sabatini then won four straight games, volleying well and passing Capriati when she tried to take the net. In the last two games of the set, Capriati won only one point. Back and Forth
In the second set, Sabatini took a 3-1 lead but Capriati rallied to a 4-3 lead by winning 13 of 14 points. She went on to a 6-5 advantage but Sabatini held serve to force the tie breaker.
The Seles-Huber match offered a preview of the future, and no one seemed more aware of that than Seles, who seemed to sense as the match unfolded that the 12th-ranked Huber could eventually challenge her No. 1 ranking.
The 17-year-old German has the power to promote a slugfest with Seles. Although Seles has won their three matches, Huber is not afraid of her and is quickly developing the muscle to cope with Seles's fast and strong shots. Last year, the two also played here in the quarterfinals and Huber won only four games. One year later, she doubled her effort.
Boris Breskvar is in charge of developing Huber and he's no stranger to locating talent. Breskvar was an early mentor to both Boris Becker and Steffi Graf in Liemen, Germany.
When the softspoken Breskvar was asked whether Huber would eventually have a more diverse game than Seles, he said, "Not less." But his immediate plan is for Huber to improve concentration and gain a proficiency at volleying.
"I didn't think about beating her," Huber said. "When it was 5-all, sure, I did," she added, referring to the first set. "I wanted, though, to just play a good game."
Seles wasn't surprised at Huber's admission. "That's a reaction I always had when I was an up-and-coming player, playing against top players," she said. "You've just got to get over that." Breaking Points
Huber managed to challenge a 5-2 deficit to even the score at 5-all in the first set. But Huber double-faulted on the third set point of the final game.
Except for Huber's service game in the eighth game, there was at least one break point in every game of the second set. Seles had four break points in the set and converted two of them to her advantage. Huber had nine such chances but broke serve only in the first game.
"A lot of times, I let her get back into the match, which against a good player like her, shouldn't be allowed," Seles said. "It's too dangerous, too risky."