View Full Version : Breaking Down Jen's Career

Apr 6th, 2002, 06:28 PM
1990 -- At 13, turns pro; youngest major semifinalist ever (Year-end ranking: 8th)


There was a lot of hoopla when Capriati turned pro. Reporters came from all over the world to Boca Raton to cover her first tournament. I didn't even want to go. I said, "Why are we paying any attention to a 13-year-old kid?"
Reluctantly, I went down to Florida for what I thought would be one day, taking one shirt with me. As it turned out I had to wash it out every night because she kept winning. Capriati got to the final and wound up giving Gabriela Sabatini, a seasoned pro and that year's U.S. Open champion, a very tough match, losing 6-4, 7-5.
Everyone was surprised by her debut performance. It was a marvelous start for someone who I thought was too young to join the Tour. In retrospect, I guess that staying in the juniors for a few more years would have been boring for her. But when it came down to it, Capriati showed us all that she was ready.
At Roland Garros, Capriati just kept going. Everything was easy for her. As she recently said about that time in her life, there was no pressure on her. On the clay courts Capriati was just hitting the ball and beating everybody. Making it to the semifinals was incredible, but she lost badly to Monica Seles. She was a phenomenon, no doubt about that.
Everyone was watching her, this pleasant, wide-eyed schoolgirl with a beaming smile. Off the court with the press, Capriati was delightful and willing to share her insights. And she was good copy, as reporters like to say. So at 14, in her first trip to Paris, Capriati was happy as could be. And in her next major she became the youngest player ever to win a match at Wimbledon before advancing to the fourth round. All in all, she had an incredibly bright future ahead of her.

Apr 6th, 2002, 06:30 PM
1991 -- Becomes youngest Wimbledon semifinalist, second youngest U.S. Open semifinalist (Year-end ranking: 6th)


After fourth-round appearances in her next three majors ('90 Wimbledon and U.S. Open, '91 French Open), Capriati returned to London and shocked the world with another stunning performance. The 15-year-old Floridian upset defending champion Martina Navratilova, handing the nine-time Wimbledon queen her earliest exit on the lawns in 14 years. In the process Capriati became the tournament's youngest semifinalist ever.
Months later in New York lightning struck again, as Capriati knocked off defending champ Gabriela Sabatini in the U.S. Open quarterfinals. No teenager had done that before: beating two defending champions in successive major tournaments. Only three women have done it (and their names are King, Evert and Navratilova).
I picked her to win that Open, and she almost did. Capriati came within two points of beating Monica Seles in a dynamite semifinal. And had she beaten Seles, the eventual champion, I think Capriati would have beaten Navratilova, too. That's because Seles handled Navratilova pretty easily in the final, winning 7-6(1), 6-1.

Apr 6th, 2002, 06:34 PM
1992 -- Wins Olympic gold medal (Year-end ranking: 7th)


When Capriati reached Barcelona, her demeanor was starting to change. Even with the world watching at the Olympics, the site of her marvelous upset over Steffi Graf for the gold medal, she was a 16-year-old talent who was very surly and distant. Capriati made it a point not to talk to any members of the press. Meanwhile, her father, Stefano, dismissed Capriati's behavior as normal teenage blues, explaining further that she was at odds with him and her mother.
Capriati regained her old smile when she beat Graf, who finished the year No. 2 in the world, for the gold. In victory, Capriati was very excited during the only talk I had with her the entire tournament. But it didn't take long for that sunny disposition to again give way to darkness. Capriati adopted a very somber look which featured dark makeup and dark clothes.
I can't say for sure, but at this stage of her sensational career it looked like she was being pushed too hard and playing too much. I also think she realized that girls her age were supposed to be having fun -- and not required to play tennis day after day. Yet, even while her off-putting personality was a stark departure from her happy-go-lucky days, there was little real concern. But nobody knew Capriati was headed for trouble.

Apr 6th, 2002, 06:36 PM
1993 -- Drops off Tour; cited for shoplifting (Year-end ranking: 9th)


It's trite to say it was a cry for help, and I don't know if her shoplifting charge was. But one thing was certain -- it was really disappointing to learn about, especially because it involved someone who appeared to have a life full of wonderful honors and accomplishments just within her reach. But it became painfully obvious that Capriati's ability to achieve tennis greatness was slipping from her grasp.
The December incident startled me, basically because it didn't make any sense. A millionaire shoplifter? And it was disturbing, along with the growing sense that she was squandering a very rare opportunity. I knew kids who shoplifted and got caught, and because their name wasn't Capriati the storeowner simply said, "Put it back and get the heck out of here." But when you have a big name you better keep your hands in your pockets.
Around the Tour, no one had an answer for what was going on. Everybody was shocked, and the prevailing view was that Capriati, who was just 17, probably wasn't that interested in tennis anymore.

Apr 6th, 2002, 06:39 PM
1994-95 -- Busted for marijuana, enters drug rehab, remained off Tour except for one match in Nov. '94 (Year-end rankings: none)


The news of Capriati's latest personal problems was really shocking and very disturbing. I remember the majority of people in the tennis world thinking that her career was over. No one knew how serious Capriati's drug involvement was or whether she was going to make a strong commitment to drug rehab.
It was also a time when blame was being directed at everyone. I, for one, wrote a newspaper column stating that Capriati was being let down by everyone: the WTA, her agent and even her parents -- simply because it seemed that no one was paying attention to her. There was not one person who was watching closely, and the result was that nobody had a handle on that confused 18-year-old. While the search was on for answers, it seemed pretty clear that Capriati was in the midst of a rebellion, not unlike those undertaken by ordinary teenagers. Regardless of the reason, her very public troubles left her off the Tour at an age of great promise, and searching for what she would do next.

Apr 6th, 2002, 06:43 PM
1996 -- Re-enters Tour in Feb., ranked #103 in April; as No. 50 beat co-No. 1 Seles (Year-end ranking: 24th)


I think people were hoping that Capriati might somehow be able to make a strong comeback upon her return to the Tour. That came in Essen, Germany, where she was able to reach the quarterfinals. But even with that bright spot, and others that occasionally surfaced, the 20-year-old former phenom wasn't much of a force.
I think people were paying attention to her comeback for a while, and beating top-ranked Monica Seles in late October in Chicago en route to the final helped that cause. But eventually her on-again, off-again approach was much like a girl crying wolf, with fewer and fewer folks noticing what she was up to.
Capriati was a questionable commodity by this time. She had some terrible losses, like her first-round defeat at the French Open to some completely unknown Chinese kid by the name of Jing-Qian Yi.
Making matters even more difficult was the fact that other talented players were joining the Tour. The scene had moved on -- but Capriati hadn't. I thought her career was over.

Apr 6th, 2002, 06:47 PM
1997-98 -- Injured, plays sporadically (Year-end ranking: 66th in '97, 101st in '98)


Another freefall emerged in 1997. It started early in the season with a heartbreaking moment at the Australian Open.
In the first round, Capriati fell apart against Jolene Watanabe, the world's 78th-ranked player, someone I knew nothing about. So I went over to some Japanese reporters and I asked them to tell me about her. Practically in unison, they said "What can we tell you? Watanabe is an American." Sure enough, she was a Japanese-American college player who was barely on anyone's radar in the United States. That's how invisible this person was, the one who had beaten the once-great Capriati. That moment really demonstrated to me how far Capriati had fallen. Then at the press conference after her numbing defeat, more drama.
With so many Australians coming up to me to say how much they were pulling for Capriati to make a strong comeback, I decided to pass that message along to Capriati to get her reaction. But upon hearing the news, and in the wake of her humiliating defeat to a certifiable nobody, she just burst into tears. It was terribly sad.

Apr 6th, 2002, 06:49 PM
1999 -- After six-year drought, wins two titles (Year-end ranking: 23)


Capriati's resurgence coincided with the hiring of Harold Solomon as her coach. It was a huge step forward for her, which lifted her physically as well as emotionally.
When Capriati's parents first approached Solomon, who was a Top-10 player in the late 1970s with 22 career titles to his credit, he told them that he wasn't interested in taking Jennifer on as a project. But eventually he had a change of heart. Solomon decided he would -- but under one condition: she would have to ask him herself. Solomon wanted her to convince him that she would be dedicated to a new training regimen. After hearing what he needed, Solomon started getting her in shape. And Capriati worked hard, harder than any other time in her life.
The results were both impressive and immediate. In May, Capriati won in Strasbourg, marking her first Tour title in six years. Six months later Capriati bagged another title in Quebec City, which helped raise her ranking to No. 26, her best showing in nearly three years.

Apr 6th, 2002, 06:52 PM
2000 -- Reaches Australian Open semifinals (Year-end ranking: 14th)


The culmination of her work with coach Harold Solomon was getting to the semifinals of the Australian Open, which was also her first semifinal appearance in a major since the fall of 1991. That accomplishment was a testament to his solid coaching and overall guidance. But not long after her strong showing in Melbourne, Capriati parted company with Solomon, right when it looked like she might become a respectable tennis player again.
In Miami, Capriati was able to upset No. 6 Serena Williams, but even that victory provided no inkling that the rising 24-year-old -- which is practically middle-aged in the sport -- was going to turn back the clock and regain her competitive form from a decade ago.
As it turned out, the second half of the year didn't go well for Capriati. At Wimbledon, she lost in the fourth round. And at the U.S. Open she was down again, also losing in the fourth round. Capriati was noticeably overweight and again at a crossroads.

Apr 6th, 2002, 06:54 PM
Jan. 2001 -- Wins Australian Open for first career major title; enters Top 10


Somewhere between her disappointing 2000 U.S. Open finish and landing in Melbourne the following January, Capriati had an epiphany. She realized that it was "now or never," that she had to work and train and practice harder than she ever did before -- whether she liked it or not.
Looking back at that pivotal moment, Capriati told me recently that she had to test her potential, to find out whether she could regain her old form. She didn't want to someday leave the game without knowing that. The maturing young woman also said that she was prompted to make a change, in part, by some minor injuries. Futhermore, Capriati admitted that she was out of shape at the Open.
Capriati hooked up with a personal trainer in Florida and began intense workouts. Along with her brother, Steven, who was also very influential in Capriati's makeover, she worked on her health and her conditioning day after day. In a reflective moment, Capriati told me it all came so easy for her when she was a kid, that she never had to work at being in shape.
Then, of course, she stunned the world by running the table in Australia to win her first major title. It came more than a decade -- a decade! -- after first joining the Tour as a top talent. Nothing like Capriati's rise, fall and rise again to major championship status had ever happened before.
To win a major and become a force again Capriati had to make the decision to push herself. Nobody could have done it for her. I think she was mature enough to realize that being a great tennis player is what she really wanted to be, and that dedicating herself to the sport was her purpose in life.

Apr 6th, 2002, 06:57 PM
June 2001 -- Wins French Open; soon after rises to No. 3 in the world


Capriati's breakthrough at the Australian Open, combined with her overall improved play in the following months, helped make her the world's No. 4 player and the fourth seed at Roland Garros. Those numbers represented a real jump in status, especially given that Capriati was ranked 14th and seeded 12th at the major Down Under.
But what it really meant, of course, was that if Capriati were to win on the Paris clay, she wasn't going to sneak up on anybody like she did in startling fashion 11 summers ago as a precocious 14-year-old. This time, Capriati was a frontrunner.
Despite that position, she put herself in several jams -- before somehow emerging from them. But I strongly believe Capriati's on-court adversity in that event only strengthened her game and resolve as a top player.
In the quarterfinals against Serena Williams, Capriati seemed to have thrown away the match. She had match point in the second set, only before double-faulting -- which turned the tide and forced Capriati to play for another hour. But I'm sure the setback proved to be a real bonus for her in the long run, because instead of falling apart Capriati didn't let up again. The result was knocking off Williams to live another day, which came against Martina Hingis, Capriati's victim in the semifinals.
What's more, Capriati's experience paid dividends when it counted most, in the final against Kim Clijsters. Capriati was just two points from defeat, but she dug deep again to rally back, winning the second set, 6-4, to stay alive. And one can only guess how much her gritty determination helped her survive the epic 12-10 third set, which gave Capriati her second major title and best showing in Paris since her landmark semifinal appearance in 1990.
After Capriati dispatched Hingis, the world's No. 1 player, I asked the Swiss star to name the Tour's best player. Capriati, she said -- and that was before the 25-year-old American claimed the title. I posed the same question to Venus Williams and she agreed that Capriati was the best. That's exactly what I thought, too -- despite what those crazy computer rankings said.

Apr 7th, 2002, 03:31 AM
What a great thumbnail sketch of her career VBN-and with pics to match! I am truly proud of how Jenn's Den is coming along-and you my friend are it's heart and soul

P.S. You will of course update this when she ends 2002 as the #1-right?;)

Apr 7th, 2002, 01:45 PM
:) thanks, you too, of course :) - whoever becomes moderator of this place, i think we need to convinve them to your yearly reports and maybe this breakdown under the important section so they won't be lost ...

what do you think?

I can update it after 2002, even though I nicked this from NBC Sports :p

Apr 15th, 2002, 12:39 PM
VBN, thanks for everything: story, pics, everything!:kiss:

Apr 15th, 2002, 02:37 PM
im sure either Rollo or VeryBoredNow will be allected...

Apr 16th, 2002, 06:53 AM
Thanx for the pics VBN :wavey:

Apr 16th, 2002, 06:54 AM
All pics are great! :D :cool: :D :cool: :wavey: :bounce: :bounce: :bounce:

Apr 16th, 2002, 06:54 AM
Exept one :sad: :sad: :sad:

Apr 16th, 2002, 06:55 AM
But thank God thatīs HISTORY ;) :cool: :D :bounce:

Apr 21st, 2002, 12:38 AM
Great thread VBN. It's sad, but it just makes me think how she accomplishhed all these great things afterwards.

Apr 21st, 2002, 03:35 AM
Fantastic thread, VBN, thanks!!

Apr 25th, 2002, 05:31 PM
Hey, you know what is crazy to me, is how all the people hating on Jennifer never look at her career as a whole, the accomplishments from the beginning,I mean to come into the WTA and be ranked number eight at 13 and beat allot of great players you knew this girl was going to be number one eventually. Who knew it would be 11 years later..................And then to come back into the game when all these power players are dominating and win titles and move up the rankings, come on now, how can you hate on that


Apr 25th, 2002, 05:37 PM
its easy i guess...
nobody hated John Mc right?
so why Jenny?

Apr 25th, 2002, 05:39 PM
The cheesiest!!!!!!


Apr 25th, 2002, 06:30 PM
Hey, you know what is crazy to me, is how all the people hating on Jennifer never look at her career as a whole, the accomplishments from the beginning,I mean to come into the WTA and be ranked number eight at 13 and beat allot of great players you knew this girl was going to be number one eventually. Who knew it would be 11 years later..................And then to come back into the game when all these power players are dominating and win titles and move up the rankings, come on now, how can you hate on that

sorry - i never saw this first time around :)

I see it as people have climatised to Jens revival. because Jen has succeeded in her comeback to such extronordinary results, people are almost numb to the size of the achievement within itself - and because of that it's easier to criticise her level as play. People forget Jen was a "poster child for burnout" which could've been her label for the rest of her life, but it will always be "comeback". Looking through the career as a whole two things hit me
1 - It really wasn't a big a deal as the press made it out to be. Coming into all this very resently, from reading recent newspapers, they made such a huge thing about something that really wasn't.
2 - If Jen hadn't been able to take the next step from number 14 to number 1 in the world, the process of coming back looks harder than Jen made it look. Because within the end of the 2000 and beginning of the 2001 season the difference in level of play was so great, many see the comeback as between that time and don't look in the period 1996-1999 which was so hard for Jen.

As for her earlier career - Mark35 said to me, he sees Jen as the link between Navratilova era to today, but because her achievemnts now are so much greater than at the beginning of her career, because it is the tennis and Jen doing the talking as opposed to anyone else, people focus on the present more than the past.
And Jen said it herself - look to the present (or something like that) - and why not? it's great now...

Hope that made some kind of sense...

Apr 25th, 2002, 07:52 PM
it did made SOME sense..
i think...

Apr 25th, 2002, 10:54 PM
Insanity, why donīt you like her as a player? :confused:

Apr 25th, 2002, 11:03 PM
Quite simply, she has a place in history for so many reasons.

People will always remember her for so many different reasons. Those who choose to remember the tennis will appreciate her as a prodigy of immense talent and finally, a champion. She's made certain that her career can be looked back on as that of a champion, not a wasted talent.

Those who choose to detract from what she has done will focus on her misdemeanours and her attitude on court.

The most undeniable truth is that she is a star of the game and important to it as is her story.

Her hatred is evident today due to her success. I have said before that apathy never caused a thread to be written. People will only write about what they care about, whether it's because they love her, as we do here, or fear her and what she can do to their faves. She's feared now, people worry about her.

And yes VBN, I too thought people did make more of her troubles than it deserved but that's more due to her profile as poster kid for her sport. Don't forget that although she only did what countless people her age did (and got caught), she wasn't just any other kid, no matter what she wanted to believe. She's a star, someone burdened by their own ability and ultimately someone who came through it, but one reason I believe her troubles made so much news is that what we actually found out only touched the surface. The rumours always persist about how much deeper into trouble she got, but we'll never know.

I could go on for pages about her career, but will stop here. One day we shoudl all take over the chat room in this place and hold a Jennifer Appreciation night.

Apr 25th, 2002, 11:11 PM
Hey, cool words! :wavey: :D :bounce:

Apr 18th, 2003, 08:12 PM

Apr 21st, 2003, 04:05 AM
VBN, email Bud Collins and tell him to update his Jen chronology! We need the rest of 2001 and 2002. ;)


Apr 21st, 2003, 07:11 AM
just makes you realize how great her comeback was all over again

Apr 21st, 2003, 08:48 PM

you really do rock. my world and then some.