Capriati Takes Leave From Tennis Circuit
The Washington Post Jan 18, 1994;
Less than four years after bursting upon the tennis scene as a 13-year-old millionaire, Jennifer Capriati is temporarily walking away from the sport to finish high school.
Capriati, ranked No. 12 but out of action with bone chips in her elbow since a first-round loss at the U.S. Open in August, won't return to tennis until she completes her senior year this spring, her agent said.
The story was first reported by The New York Times yesterday and confirmed by Barbara Perry, her agent.
"I need a break from it," Capriati told the Times. "It's unfortunate that I had an injury, especially one that required such a long recuperation, but I feel I've made the most of my break from the tour. And I've decided I want to concentrate on finishing my senior year."
Perry, in a telephone interview, said Capriati was taking a sabbatical, not retiring from tennis.
"I think she was forced to take time off for an injury, which she had most of 1993," Perry said. "Having time off the tour, she decided she wants to concentrate on school until after graduation, then come back."
Apr 19th, 2002, 02:57 AM
Capriati Putting Career on Hold Tennis: Teen-ager, ranked 12th in world, not expected to return to tour until after French Open
The Los Angeles Times Jan 18, 1994; BILL DWYRE;
When she was 13, she reached the final in her first pro tournament. When she was 14, she made it to the French Open semifinals, and also became the youngest ever to win a match at Wimbledon. When she was 15, she made the semifinals at both
Jennifer Capriati, teen-age tennis star, has decided to become Jennifer Capriati, teen-ager. And the two people most happy with that decision are her parents.
Capriati, who will turn 18 March 29 and who will graduate from Pascual County High in Saddlebrook, Fla., on June 9, announced over the weekend that she has put her highly lucrative career on hold for a while.
She is ranked 12th in the world and would have been among the seeded players at the first Grand Slam event of the year, the Australian Open, which opened Monday in Melbourne. Although she wasn't specific about a date of return, she is expected to sit out the French Open in May and probably will not return to the tour until sometime before Wimbledon, which starts in late June.
"It's really hard to say," said her mother, Denise, from Wesley Chapel, Fla. "She could turn on TV, watch a little bit of the Australian and want to get back out and play. But I don't think so."
Capriati's announcement was brief and noncommittal. "I need a break from it," she told the New York Times.
In a little more than four years on the tour, Capriati has amassed considerably more than $1 million in winnings.
When she was 13, she reached the final in her first pro tournament. When she was 14, she made it to the French Open semifinals, and also became the youngest ever to win a match at Wimbledon. When she was 15, she made the semifinals at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, and her advance at Wimbledon that year, 1991, featured a victorious two-day, rain-delayed quarterfinal drama over Martina Navratilova on Centre Court.
And when she was 16, she won the Olympic gold medal, beating Germany's Steffi Graf in the final on the red clay at Barcelona.
But the combination of media attention, an arm injury that has bothered her since March and has only recently been diagnosed as a fracture, and an alleged shoplifting situation in a Tampa mall in December finally pushed her to a decision to get out for a while.
"We all kind of talked about it, her father and Jennifer and me," Denise Capriati said. "Originally, she was planning to return sooner. But then, with what happened at the mall, it was just tough to come back now, to face the media again and all the questions.
"She's very strong, but she's just not ready to talk. I think she made a good decision. Stefano (Jennifer's father) and I couldn't agree more with what she has decided. She's only a senior in high school once, and this lets her go to school, not have to travel all over the world with school books, and come back when she wants to with a clear head."
Stefano Capriati called the decision "a good one step back," and said he was very happy that his daughter had the nerve to do this.
Both parents said that the mall incident probably was the final straw for their daughter. Capriati was cited by Tampa police for allegedly shoplifting after trying on an inexpensive ring and walking out of a store with it still on her finger. The Capriatis have said it was all a mistake, that she simply forgot she had the ring on. She will have a private hearing before juvenile officials this month.
"We were furious over how some of the local media here overplayed that story," Denise Capriati said. "And we still are."
According to her mother, Capriati should be injury-free when she does come back.
"We just were told recently that what we had been told was bone chips on her elbow really wasn't that," Denise Capriati said. "It turned out that what the X-rays were showing was really a small fracture, and that has almost completely healed now. No surgery will be needed."
Capriati lives in an apartment nearby and stops at her parents' home after school each day, her mother said.
"I really don't know if she's playing tennis at all now, even just with some of her friends," Denise said. "But I do know one thing, she's growing up a lot."
Apr 19th, 2002, 12:31 PM
keep up the good work Rollo!
Apr 19th, 2002, 02:13 PM
Homework First, Then Go Play
The Washington Post Jan 20, 1994; Johnette Howard;
flGrand The Washington Post Company Jan 20, 1994
Normally the third week of January signals a renewal for the diehard tennis fan. By now the pro players have ended their six- or eight-week winter hiatus. The men's and women's tours - which both fall dark over the holidays - gear up the machinery again. Everyone who gives a whit about a lob or a drop shot looks off toward the sunshine and sweltering heat of Melbourne for the first Grand Slam event of the year, the two-week Australian Open. In some ways, the tournament has become to the tennis fan what spring training is to the baseball aficionado. With this difference: Change comes much more slowly to tennis than to baseball.
But not this year.
No matter what else happens in 1994, tennis is already guaranteed of these slow developing, foundation-rocking dramas: Jennifer Capriati is stepping back from the tour and Martina Navratilova, the sport's diva, says she's making her last go-round in 1994. Boris Becker is lashing out, perhaps flaming out, with allegations about drug use on the tour that he has yet to prove. Everyone is still waiting for a detailed explanation of what's taking so long for Monica Seles to return. And proof that Jim Courier's year-end swan dive last year was not, as rumored, a sign he's approaching burn out.
Of all those subplots on the agenda, only Capriati's pullout from the first five months of the tour qualifies as good news.
When word came Monday that she was abdicating her role as America's next tennis queen - at least until she finishes her senior year of high school - it wasn't a total surprise. Within tennis, rumblings had been going on for months that all was not well with the 17-year-old star or her family-run camp. And evidence backed it up.
For Capriati, 1993 was a listless year. Tendinitis and a bone chip in her right elbow were bothering her in March. The year also included a lackluster run at Wimbledon, a first-round flameout at the U.S. Open at the end of August and a December citation by Tampa police for allegedly shoplifting jewelry. Capriati insists she walked away with a $15 ring by mistake and was appalled by the publicity she received.
Fellow players said Capriati didn't seem to be enjoying herself and postmatch questions about her father's role in her career prompted her short-tempered replies, such as "What kind of question is that?"
Though her elbow injury was real, even Capriati's September announcement that she was taking off the rest of the year was met with some tittering: Had something deeper gone wrong?
We know now it has, of course - though there's nothing to suggest Capriati is as tormented as teen phenom Andrea Jaeger was when she quit before her 20th birthday, or as unhappy as Tracy Austin confessed to being after she left the tour in 1983.
Capriati is hardly the only young tennis player to belatedly admit some personal anguish about being so young and being on the tour. Steffi Graf, who turned pro at 14, has spoken of struggling with her success and "feeling sorry for myself." Though Seles' career had a jackrabbit start, she's long dealt with the pressure of being the breadwinner for her family after they emigrated from the former Yugoslavia to Florida to further her tennis career. Pam Shriver was a sensation at 16, but never won a Grand Slam singles title and later admitted to struggling with bouts of self-loathing. Just last year, Andre Agassi talked of his struggles with public life and his quick fame.
Even Pete Sampras, who burst on the scene by winning the U.S. Open at 19, said he was "relieved" when he failed to defend his title the next year.
"It changed my life," he said. And not all for the better.
What's different about Capriati is the speed of her ascent and, now, her decision to insist on a lull. Since turning pro in 1990, Capriati has hit some high bench marks: youngest to reach a Grand Slam semifinal (French Open, 1990); youngest to be ranked in the top 10 (age 14); Olympic gold medal (age 16). But she was also bitten by something Graf, Seles and the others didn't have to endure: suffocating attention and a $4.5 million-plus endorsement bonanza that preceded the first ball she ever hit as a pro.
That's what makes her different. The process of selling off chunks of Capriati began when she was a 9-year-old phenom. By then, agents were already jostling to sign her and her father bragged he already had a handshake deal to take Jennifer to the Italian Open the first year she turned pro. Now, around tennis, much of the blame for Capriati's feeling that she has to pull back is being laid at the feet of her handlers - and especially her father, Stefano. But Jennifer has never publicly gone along with that. Not even now.
Capriati's decision to step back and move into her own apartment - and by all accounts, both decisions were initiated by her - looks like the best thing for everyone involved. If Capriati were going to grab for what she calls a "normal life" and experience the last slice of adolescence, the next five months has to be the time she does it.
So compliment her for having the good sense to enjoy her senior year uninterrupted, and her willingness to stare down the sponsors who, though they're sticking by her, probably weren't crazy about her decision. Capriati's agent says she's sure Capriati will return at some point. If she's right, what the tennis star has is not much worse than a deep case of ennui.
And you can recover from that.
Here's hoping she sticks to her decision to stay away from the working world. And that she has a great time this spring at the prom