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post #1 of 24 (permalink) Old Apr 23rd, 2002, 10:19 PM Thread Starter
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2002:Cinderella Is Here to Stay

The hard return
Sports Illustrated Women; New York; Dec 2001-Jan 2002; L Jon Wertheim

Volume: 3 Issue: 8
Start Page: 58-62

2001 SPORTSWOMAN OF THE YEAR


NEVER MIND HER WINNING THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN

last winter, the first Grand Slam title of her improbable career. Forget about her dramatic victory at the French Open injune. The defining moment of jennifer Capriati's gilded year came on an infernally hot August afternoon at a marginal tournament. At the Acura Classic in San Diego, Capriati faced Monica Seles in the quarterfinals.

As the match progressed, Seles unleashed her signature stuck-pig grunt every time she hit the ball. Capriati, distracted and annoyed, glowered at Seles. As the two walked to their chairs for a changeover, Capriati flashed her opponent a death stare that screamed, "Shut the %@*# up!" When that failed to effect any change, Capriati chucked her racquet onto the asphalt court, dropped a few curses and appealed to the chair umpire to intervene. "Tell her to stop," Capriati demanded.

Understand that women's tennis doesn't suffer trash-talk gladly. Understand, too, that

ever since she failed to regain her form after being stabbed on court nearly a decade ago, Seles has been a politically untouchable player who can do no wrong. Capriati didn't care. The grunting was, in Capriati's words, "pissing me off." And damned if she was going to stand for it simply because the player on the other side of the net was Monica Seles. After losing the match, Capriati was still livid. "That was the loudest she's ever been," she complained. "I know that everybody grunts. I grunt. But I don't absolutely scream when I hit the ball."

If the WTA tour has been likened to a high school-awash in cliques, gossip and jealousies-calling out Seles was the equivalent of dissing Miss Popularity. Capriati, reformed but ever the rebel, was still unapologetic months later. "I was trying to win," she says. "Look, I'm going to do what I have to do. Good players can be soft. Great ones can't."

Great. The journey was especially torturous, but Jennifer Capriati is finally great. In 2 ox she at last exceeded the expectations that were foisted upon her a decade ago, when she was hailed as the heiress apparent to Chris Evert. At age 25, after years of personifying burnout and too-much-too-soon, she blossomed to win two majors and seize the No. 1 ranking from Martina Hingis, who'd held the position for 209 weeks. "It was like a movie: Will Jennifer make it back?" says Hingis. "We knew that she had a ton of talent, but I don't think anyone would have guessed the story would have gone like this."

Everyone loves a comeback. Capriati's is particularly appealing because she wrote the script on her own terms, defiant and ruthless. The experts were right, after all, about her ability to play superlative tennis, but so wrong about her disposition. Cast as the happy-go-lucky kid whose appeal would transcend the sport, she turned out to be as tough as a $2 steak. As she does when she plays, Capriati fires away without inhibition off the court. It's not that she's among the legion of prima donnas on tour-in fact, she's generally pleasant. It's just that she's past caring what the world thinks of her.

"I've been criticized for so much of my life. What more can I do wrong?" she says. "I've had a lot of issues that make you hesitant to be yourself It's taken me a while to feel comfortable and be comfortable showing my face. But this is my true self I finally decided: I'm just going to let it fly."

THE SPORTS WORLD IS SATURATED WITH

stories of athletes who make triumphant returns, but Capriati's has a twist. She didn't overcome the fates dealing her a lousy hand; she was responsible for her trouble. Yet in an odd way this makes her comeback all the more heroic. There was plenty of blame to go around, but ultimately Capriati mucked things up herself. In the end, she extricated herself, too.

"I'm in charge now," she says. "This is my life I'm living."

A tennis prodigy, who appeared with Evert in Tennis magazine at age eight, Capriati turned pro in the spring of 1990, a few weeks shy of her 14th birthday. Hitting ground strokes with a violent torque, she reached the final of her first tournament. She charmed Madison Avenue with her gum-smacking teenage mannerisms and endearingly naive Valley Girl speak. By year's end she had a top io ranking and $6 million in endorsements with companies ranging from Rolex to Oil of Olay



By the time she was 17, she was crashing as spectacularly-and as publicly-- as she had ascended. Wilting under the weight of expectations, her tennis regressed. She nearly broke down on the court after losing in the first round of the 1993 U.S. Open to the 37th-- ranked Leila Meshki. Beset by adolescent claustrophobia and shocked by the breakup of her parents' marriage, she went into full rebel mode. In December 1993 she was cited for shoplifting a ring from a Tampa mall. Less than five months later, after moving away from home and settling in South Florida, she was arrested at a Coral Gables fleabag motel. Though she was busted for marijuana possession (and did multiple court-ordered stints in drug rehab), others in the hotel room, who were at the small party which Capriati allegedly bankrolled, were charged with possession of heroin and crack cocaine. Suddenly Capriati's disconsolate, puffy face, raccoon eyes and pierced nose were all featured on a ubiquitous mug shot: Case No. 94-9819.

Having lost interest in tennis-her sponsors and most of her entourage having long since vanished-Capriati spent her days holed up in her room. Thoughts of suicide did not escape her. "She spent a lot of time in darkness," says her mother, Denise. Her father, Stefano, encouraged her to get back to tennis. In the winter of 1996 Capriati started a fitful series of comeback attempts, but her self-esteem was shot to hell. In her absence a brigade of concussive ball strikers, such as Lindsay Davenport and Venus and Serena Williams, had infiltrated women's tennis, making the field deeper than ever. Over-weight and out of shape, ranking a dismal Soth, Capriati gave serious thought to quitting altogether and getting on with life.

"I was questioning so much in my life," she says. "Why is this happening? Why are so many people who don't know me criticizing me? I wanted to come out of my shell, but I wasn't sure yet. I didn't want to get hurt."

Slowly but steadily she emerged from her carapace of fear and self-loathing. In the spring of 1999 she won her first title in more than six years, beating four higher-ranked players. By early 2000 Capriati had made immense strides and had reached the semifinals of the Australian Open, but she slid back again. Distracted by injuries and a turbulent romance with Xavier Matisse, then an underachieving player on the men's tour, Capriati abruptly split with her coach, Harold Solomon, and enlisted Stefano as a replacement. Meanwhile, Denise was undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer. Capriati ended the year with a desultory loss to Anna Kournikova (never a good sign) and failed to achieve her goal of finishing in the top io. "I was getting no satisfaction out of tennis," she says. "For whatever reason, the results weren't coming. People said, `Look how far you've come,' but I felt I was wasting my time. Finally I was like, Do this thing right, or don't do it."

She returned to Florida at the end of the season and summoned her trainer, Karen Burnett, to whip her into shape. While the other players were vacationing, Capriati spent the winter in the gym, in the pool and on the track. When she showed up for the 2ooi season, she looked like a Method actress who had gotten her body into shape for a part. "She walked into the locker room," recalls Davenport, "and it was like, Uh, Jennifer, is that you?" The linebacker arms, tight stomach and vastly improved stamina helped Capriati's tennis. More important, her new body set in motion a self-perpetuating cycle. "When Jennifer feels better about herself, she plays better," says Denise. "When she plays better, she feels better about herself"




This newly bolstered self-assurance carried over to the rest of her life. The likes and ya knows, earmarks of youthful insecurity, disappeared from her conversations. She stopped dwelling on her breakup with Malisse. ("My racquet is now my Prince Charming," she says.) The baggy clothes were replaced with skintight, belly-baring numbers. Dave Matthews, not Led Zeppelin, blares from the CD player in her Range Rover. Once a shrine to all things Goth, Capriati's bedroom in her home in Wesley Chapel, Fla., is now

Ian Schrager-hip, dominated by oversized furniture and upbeat colors. "I'm not religious, but I'm spiritual," she says, "and after all the darkness, the light started shining."

WHEN CAPRIATI COLDCOCKED A BACK--

hand return past Martina Hingis on match point and won the Australian Open last January, her transformation from cautionary tale to fairy tale was complete. The agents and sponsors could breathe a sigh of relief Stefano, the coach, long accused of having driven his daughter to the brink, was exonerated. "If Jennifer had quit the sport then and there," says John McEnroe, "it would still have been the sports story of the decade."

When she returned home there was no victory bender, no vacation, no talkshow circuit. After a day to get over jet lag she was back in the gym and on the practice court, sweat rivering down her back. "People were afraid that once I tasted success I would lose the motivation," she says. "But I learned that it's the opposite: You want to keep it going."

At the next major, the French Open, she wiped the court with Hingis and Serena Williams to make the final. Capriati played a miserable first set against Belgian upstart Kim Clijsters. While at one time this would have been her cue to fold, this time it galvanized her. After coming within two points of losing, she prevailed 12-10 in the third set, a testament both to her physical strength and her competitive grit. Somewhere along the line she had acquired the taste for combat.

Capriati came to Wimbledon halfway to a Grand Slam- the ultimate achievement in tennis. In the quarterfinals she was down a set and 3-5, 0-30 to Serena Williams. She steeled herself, reeling off seven straight games, and she eventually took the match with a go-for-broke ace. Afterward, when Williams blamed the loss on an ailment, Capriati declined to play nice. "It happens every time I play her," she said, rolling her eyes. Capriati lost her next match but was scarcely upset. "I'm happy with the way the year has gone so far."

This newly happy, tough Jennifer Capriati doesn't care to visit the past. Those hoping for a play-by-play of what went down in that seedy hotel room nearly eight years ago will be disappointed. She refers to her downfall only abstractly-"a path of quiet rebellion," "tough times" and "old news" are her euphemisms of choice-and to the dismay of some, she has never shown remorse. She simply doesn't care.

Yet she has taken pains to avoid her previous mistakes. Before, she allowed herself to be pulled like a wishbone by sponsors, agents and other corporate slicks. These days her only sponsors are tennis-related ones. "She has turned down millions in endorsements, some from companies that only want her to wear patches on her arm when she plays," says one tennis agent. "It's unheard of, but to her it's not worth the hassle." Before, she traipsed all over the globe to play exhibitions, faxing her homework from sterile hotel rooms in japan, Germany and Mexico. These days she limits her playing schedule to tournaments. Before, she was a media darling. These days she rarely gives one-on-one interviews and, to the tour's dismay, has turned down countless invitations to chat with Dave, Jay and Regis.

"I don't care about the stardom and the hype," she says flatly. "The tennis is what matters to me. I look back on this year, and I'm relieved, I'm happy, I'm proud. I guess it all makes for a good story, but it's not like it's over yet. +
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post #2 of 24 (permalink) Old Apr 25th, 2002, 11:27 PM
Everything Fades Away
 
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I just have this vision of Jenny, being Cinderella and Venus, Serena and Martina are the evil sisters....LOL!
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post #3 of 24 (permalink) Old Apr 26th, 2002, 02:25 AM
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Whose going to be the Wicked Step-mother then, Oizo?

Go Jennifer!!
Good Luck in 2003!!

"I just made the decision that it's now or never..Just, you gotta have this positive self-image of yourself and otherwise, you know, your not gonna survive this life, I mean, you're gonna go through living depressed and sad and not being able to look at yourself and always degrating yourself..You know the most important thing is, is that to love yourself, you know, walk around with your head high and not take anything from anybody!..There's no other way than to just try to be happy, to try to smile, 'cause you know it's just..your wasting time if you're not!"
-Jennifer Capriati
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post #4 of 24 (permalink) Old Apr 26th, 2002, 03:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by TeNnIsFaN
Whose going to be the Wicked Step-mother then, Oizo?
Richard Williams in skirt
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post #5 of 24 (permalink) Old Apr 26th, 2002, 09:07 AM
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ROTFLMAO! That´s a good answer Zhao!
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post #6 of 24 (permalink) Old Apr 26th, 2002, 10:08 PM
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LOL!!!
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post #7 of 24 (permalink) Old Apr 26th, 2002, 10:09 PM
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btw, thanks for the article, rollo!
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post #8 of 24 (permalink) Old Apr 26th, 2002, 10:56 PM
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@ Rollo!
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post #9 of 24 (permalink) Old Apr 27th, 2002, 03:27 AM
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Oh gosh Zhao, I'm going to have nightmares for days seeing Richard Willaims in a skirt. However, he does make a good wicked step- mother, so no complaining there, just the imagining part...lol

Nice article Rollo!!

Go Jennifer!!
Good Luck in 2003!!

"I just made the decision that it's now or never..Just, you gotta have this positive self-image of yourself and otherwise, you know, your not gonna survive this life, I mean, you're gonna go through living depressed and sad and not being able to look at yourself and always degrating yourself..You know the most important thing is, is that to love yourself, you know, walk around with your head high and not take anything from anybody!..There's no other way than to just try to be happy, to try to smile, 'cause you know it's just..your wasting time if you're not!"
-Jennifer Capriati
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post #10 of 24 (permalink) Old Apr 28th, 2002, 10:56 PM
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LOL Tennisfan!
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post #11 of 24 (permalink) Old Apr 30th, 2002, 08:23 PM Thread Starter
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All of you crack me up Jen has such funny fans.


Capriati Gets a Quick Victory
The Los Angeles Times; Los Angeles, Calif.; Jan 4, 2002;

Jennifer Capriati won her opening match at the Hong Kong Ladies Challenge in 34 minutes, routing Indonesia's Angelique Widjaja, 6-0, 6-1.

The world's second-ranked player, preparing to defend her Australian Open title this month, was hardly tested by the 17-year- old rookie, ranked 147th.

"I think I am in better form than I was at this time last year," said Capriati, who also won the French Open last season.

"I think I am in better shape for the Australian Open and that's my goal."

Capriati will play Amanda Coetzer in today's semifinals.

*
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post #12 of 24 (permalink) Old Apr 30th, 2002, 08:25 PM Thread Starter
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Stevenson Upsets Capriati
New York Times; Jan 10, 2002;

Alexandra Stevenson had to get back to tennis. She simply did not know what to do with all the grief that resulted from the terrorist attacks Sept. 11.

A high school friend, 20-year-old Deora Bodley, died aboard the hijacked jet that crashed in Pennsylvania. The promise of romance also ended that day. Stevenson was supposed to meet Manny Del Valle, a firefighter, at the World Trade Center for dinner and dancing on Sept. 13. But he died there in the rubble doing his job.

Stevenson, a 21-year-old Californian, sampled life's cruel lessons in 1999 during a startling run to the Wimbledon semifinals as a qualifier. At about that time, it was disclosed that the basketball great Julius Erving was her father. And during the tournament, her mother made accusations of racism and lesbianism on the WTA Tour.

Today, after beating Jennifer Capriati, 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-4, at the Adidas International, Stevenson spoke of her recent heartache.

She and Del Valle, her driver, became close at the United Stated Open last September. Del Valle --especially provided consolation after her heartbreaking first-round loss and gave her a book of quotations for inspiration. They grew even closer and planned a Sept. 13th date. But by then the buildings were gone, as was Del Valle, only 32

Stevenson said she cried for a month.

''But I had to go back to work,'' she said, after dropping from a career-high ranking of 33rd in February 2000 to No. 112 in about 12 months. ''I went to Europe and played five weeks in a row. It was really tough but it made me stronger.''

Her ranking improved to No. 60 by the end of 2001. Now she is thinking big heading into next week's Australian Open.

''Everyone is always talking about the power of the Williams sisters and Lindsay Davenport and Capriati,'' she said. ''And in six months it is going to be Alexandra Stevenson.''

But her confidence is tempered by loss. And she now saves a seat for Del Valle at every tournament, right beside her mother.
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post #13 of 24 (permalink) Old Apr 30th, 2002, 08:27 PM Thread Starter
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Capriati Returns to The Place of Her Rebirth; Australian Open Champ Has Smooth Draw to Final
The Washington Post Jan 13, 2002;


Jennifer Capriati began her startling run to No. 1 at the Australian Open. A repeat victory in this Grand Slam event wouldn't be a Washington Post Company Jan 13, 2002

Jennifer Capriati began her startling run to No. 1 at the Australian Open. A repeat victory in this Grand Slam event wouldn't be a surprise.

Capriati is seeded first in the tournament, which starts Monday in Melbourne, because Lindsay Davenport pulled out with a knee injury.

That means Capriati won't confront the big-hitting Williams sisters or Martina Hingis until the final because they're in the other half of the draw.

Since Capriati won her first Grand Slam title at Melbourne, she added a second major at the French, then rose to No. 1 before ending the year No. 2.

So much has changed for Capriati, and not even a hip injury in Sydney this week puts her at a great disadvantage. It seems all the top women are injured.

Davenport is out for at least four months after undergoing surgery on her right knee. Serena Williams turned her right ankle and quit during a semifinal in Sydney on Friday. Hingis was weakened by the heat and had sore legs while winning against Kim Clijsters. Clijsters had her own troubles -- she said she had nerve problems in her right arm.

All but Davenport were confident of being fit by the start of the Australian Open, including Serena Williams.

"It's looking really positive for me -- I definitely think this [injury] isn't going to stop me," Serena Williams said.

Older sister Venus, the U.S. Open and Wimbledon champion, is seeded second and is the one top five player without a new ailment. She won the WTA event in Australia this month and then took time off to rest.

Hingis has the toughest assignment, a repeat of what she faced to reach last year's final. She faces a probable quarterfinal against Serena and a semifinal against Venus before a possible rematch with Capriati.

"It's quite reasonable," she said of Friday's draw. "It is pretty similar -- the advance rounds -- but I just think one step at a time."

Hingis is returning from a three-month layoff with an ankle injury. During that time she lost the No. 1 ranking after 73 consecutive weeks.

She is intent on adding to her five Grand Slam singles trophies. She won the Australian Open from 1997 to '99, but hasn't won a Grand Slam title since.

Capriati's breakthrough last January capped a stunning comeback after a tumultuous decade. She tumbled after reaching the semifinals at the 1990 French Open at 14 and winning an Olympic gold medal in 1992.

Besides winning the Australian Open and the French Open, she made the semis at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. She was upset in the second round in Sydney last week to qualifier Alexandra Stevenson.

"I'm looking forward to starting all over," she said. "But I don't want to get ahead of myself. . . . I'll put pressure on myself that way."

But Hingis offers this warning: "If you're at the top, everyone is going to try to beat you."
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post #14 of 24 (permalink) Old May 9th, 2002, 07:12 PM Thread Starter
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Capriati Sharp

Jennifer Capriati began defense of her Australian Open championship with precision shotmaking that made short work of Silvija Talaja.

The top seed won, 6-4, 6-1, in slightly more than an hour. She finished by blasting a forehand serve return that rocked Talaja back on her heels. Then Capriati put her away with an easy forehand.
Capriati became No. 1 in the rankings after Lindsay Davenport recently injured her knee.

"I like the feeling and I want to try to keep it for a while, and set a new goal for myself and a new challenge and take myself to a new level in my career," Capriati said.

In the first set, she staved off a game point with some fine running, angling a backhand volley one way and then dashing to the other side for a forehand cross-court winner. Two points later, she had a break for 5-2.

On set point, she followed a good serve with a short, sharply angled forehand on the sideline.

In the second set, she broke for 2-1 with a forehand to one sideline and a backhand to the other, and never lost another game.
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post #15 of 24 (permalink) Old May 9th, 2002, 07:16 PM Thread Starter
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In the secondround she advanced over Meilen Tu.

The pressures at the Australian Open are different these days for Jennifer Capriati, the defending champion, and Pete Sampras, winner of a record 13 Grand Slam singles titles.

Surrounded by upsets and injuries that thinned the field, both have advanced to the third round of the season's first major -- Capriati still not 100 percent after a hip injury, Sampras no longer the sport's No. 1 player.

Capriati fell behind 1-3 in her second set, then stepped up her attack and ousted American Meilen Tu, 6-1, 6-3, in 55 minutes. "I definitely don't want to be out there for three sets," she said.

Health is more of a worry after injuring her hip five days before the Open's start.

"With the wind and everything and being a little bit chilly this year, it's not recovering to the full extent yet," Capriati said. "I think it will be all right as the tournament goes on and I play more matches and get more treatment. It's good that the last two matches weren't really difficult so I could save something for the upcoming matches."

Next up for Capriati is Eleni Daniilidou of Greece, a 6-2, 4-6, 6- 0 winner over No. 29 Tatiana Panova of Russia.
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