CAPRIATI AND SABATINI ADVANCE OF SEMIFINALS OF SLIMS TOURNEY
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Saturday, November 14, 1992
Author: Diane Pucin
There's no sign of a smile, no stray giggle. Hit the ball, run to the ball, hit the ball, run to the ball, win a point, win a match, shake hands, jog out of the arena.
Jennifer Capriati, 16-year-old conglomerate with endorsement patches decorating her tennis shirt like ornaments on a Christmas tree, beat Lori McNeil, the No. 8 seed, 6-2, 6-1, in a quarterfinal match of the Virginia Slims of Philadelphia tournament at the Civic Center last night. It was a 51- minute exercise in corporate tennis. Get the job done, get out of the office. Quickly.
Capriati, the No. 4 seed, will play top-seeded Steffi Graf today at 1 p.m. In the other semifinal, at 7 p.m., No. 2 seed Gabriela Sabatini will face No. 3 seed Arantxa Sanchez Vicario. Sanchez was as efficient as Capriati in taking out Natalia Zvereva, also 6-2, 6-1, in yesterday's other quarterfinal.
Now that she's a grizzled two-year veteran of the pro tour, even as she still takes two-month breaks from tennis to attend her junior year of high school, Capriati has decided on the best way to approach her life these days: "There's two Jennifers," Jennifer said. The Jennifer on the court tries to impersonate an executive who wears a coat and tie and a perpetual frown. That Jennifer "is more serious and has to concentrate more and just be mature." The other Jennifer is the kid who wears headphones and walks in step with the hard rock, goes to school and the mall.
It's that Jennifer who stubbornly grabs as much normalcy as possible, who demands the school time and the play time and balks at playing exhibitions even if you can earn a nice six-figure guarantee because, really, both
Jennifers are already millionaires with a nice car and all the CDs she could ask for.
And besides, "I feel more fresh coming back (to tennis) from school," Capriati said. "I'm a lot more eager to play now."
McNeil, who is 28 and most famous for upsetting Chris Evert at the U.S. Open in 1987, was lamenting her own lack of aggressiveness in the short match. McNeil said that "mentally, I wasn't aggressive. I was defending a lot of balls. The few times I was aggressive, I was in a position to win the points. But I didn't do that enough."
Capriati didn't play particularly well, McNeil said. Capriati begged to differ. "I was very happy with the way I played. I didn't think I served as well as I can, but other than that, I was happy."
As grimly serious as Capriati looks on the court, her game is becoming more playful. It may not always be at the best time, or in the most thought-out way, but Capriati is trying hard to incorporate a volley into her game.
Most of the top women's players, Monica Seles, Graf, Sanchez, Sabatini, have been saying for a year that they are working on volleys. Capriati is saying that, too. And Capriati, that mature Jennifer, has figured out all the angles, in her head if not always on the court yet. She figures that whichever of the women get this volley stuff comfortably into their game will benefit immensely.
"You make it so much easier on yourself," Capriati said. "Instead of doing all that running around, you can end the point quicker. When I watch a match on television, like if Monica is playing Steffi, I'll see a point and think 'You should have gone to the net. If you had gone to the net you would have won the point like two shots earlier.' "
Capriati may not get a chance to test her adventurous net game today. Graf has been playing excellent tennis this week, hitting hard and deep and running well enough to get to just about everything. These two last played in Barcelona. At stake was an Olympic gold medal. The winner was Capriati, in a captivating three-set performance that was summarized by Capriati thusly: ''Oh, wow."
It was Capriati's first win over Graf, the world's No. 2-ranked player. Today, Capriati said: "I won't feel as intimidated as before I beat her. Before, I'd go into the match thinking 'Am I going to finally beat her?' I was wondering how many times it was going to take. This time, I know I can beat her."
Sanchez and Sabatini are no strangers. They've played 16 times and Sabatini has the clear edge, 11-5. But Sanchez has won the last two matches, both this year, and Sanchez, too, is trying to be a more aggressive and well-rounded player. Sanchez, 20, is also brimming with confidence. "I didn't have many mistakes," she said after Zvereva had been unable to put up much of a fight, not with 34 unforced errors against only nine clear winners. "I go to the net when I have the chances. I hit very good passing shots, too, and that makes me feel better going to the semifinals."
Seedings in parentheses.
Quarterfinals: Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (3), Spain, def. Natalia Zvereva, Belarus, 6-2, 6-1; Jennifer Capriati (4), Saddlebrook, Fla., def. Lori McNeil (8), Houston, 6-2, 6-1.
Quarterfinals: Zina Garrison-Larisa Savchenko-Neiland (3) def. Elise Burgin-Mariann deSwardt 7-5, 6-2; Conchita Martinez-Mary Pierce def. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario-Pam Shriver (1) 6-2, 1-6, 6-3; Lisa Raymond-Shaun Stafford def. Jill Hetherington-Kathy Rinaldi (4), 6-2, 6-4.