View Full Version : Capriati no longer expected to win, and likes it that way

Apr 16th, 2003, 09:11 AM
Jenn's favorite role
Capriati no longer expected to win, and likes it that way
April 16 2003
By Michael DiRocco, Times-Union sports writer
The Florida Times Union

AMELIA ISLAND --Jennifer Capriati is starting to feel like an underdog again.

It's a role in which she flourished before, winning three Grand Slams in two years, and one she's eagerly attacking again.

"When I was winning Grand Slams, I was fresh mentally and felt sort of like the underdog winning," Capriati said yesterday after beating Marie-Gairneh Mikaelian 6-4, 7-6 (5) in a second-round match at the Bausch & Lomb Championships at Amelia Island Plantation. "I just kind of played like I had noting to lose. Now it's almost to the point again where I'm the underdog again. It seems like I always play better when I'm in that position."

The third-seeded Capriati was the highest seed in action yesterday, and all won their matches entering play last night. No. 4 Daniela Hantuchova beat Akiko Morigami 7-5, 6-2; No. 12 Lisa Raymond beat Julia Vakulenko 6-1, 3-6, 6-1; No. 14 Clarisa Fernandez defeated former Florida player Jill Craybas 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-2; and No. 16 Alexandra Stevenson defeated Els Callens 7-5, 6-3.

No. 2 Lindsay Davenport and No. 8 Amanda Coetzer played last night.

Capriati wasn't even considered an underdog when she made her return to tennis in 1996 after her much-publicized 15-month layoff. More like a curiosity, because the tennis world was eager to see how she responded after more than a year away from the court.

Capriati started slowly, then in 1999 posted her best season in six years by winning in Strasbourg and Quebec City. Her breakthrough came in 2001, when she won her first Grand Slam title (Australian Open) by defeating the world's first-, second- and fourth-ranked players, and went on to win the French Open and her first career No. 1 ranking.

She wasn't an underdog anymore, especially after she won the 2002 Australian Open.

It's what has happened in the last few months that's making her feel like one again. Her vision began deteriorating last season. Countless hours in the sun had damaged her eyes. She was seeing spots, her vision would blur, and it sometimes felt like she was looking through a dirty window.

Capriati needed surgery, which she scheduled for after the season-ending championships last November. There were no complications, but the recovery period took longer than she expected, spilling over into the start of the 2003 season.

She tried to play through it, but it wasn't easy. She lost her opening matches in the adidas International in Sydney and the Australian Open in January, including to 90th-ranked Marlene Weingartner in three sets at the Australian Open.

She was scheduled to play in the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo the following week, but withdrew to give her eyes more time to recover.

"Everyone recovers different," Capriati said. "Especially me, in my sport, I need to recover as fast as possible. "

As her eyes improved, so did her play. She reached the semifinals of the Dubai Duty Free Women's Open (losing to Justine Henin-Hardenne) in February and the Pacific Life Open at Indian Wells (losing to Lindsay Davenport) in March.

At the Nasdaq-100 Open in Miami last month, Capriati said she was finally happy with her recovery, and lost in the final to Serena Williams in three sets. Her match against Mikaelian was her first since that loss to Williams.

Her eyes were fine. Her aggressiveness wasn't.

Capriati, ranked No. 6 in the world, was successful when she went to the net, but charged sparingly. She committed 33 unforced errors and needed one hour, 49 minutes to beat Mikaelian, the world's 37th ranked player.

"I was a little hesitant out there on the clay in the beginning because it was just my first match," said Capriati, who was making her first appearance in the Bausch & Lomb since 1999. "My footing wasn't exactly where I wanted it to be. ...

"Hopefully the next match I'll be more aggressive."

That's her plan for the rest of the season, too, because she won't be able to compete with the Williams sisters, Kim Clijsters, Davenport and Henin-Hardenne -- all of whom are ranked ahead of her in the WTA Tour singles rankings.

"There's a subtle difference between me and the players that are ahead of me," Capriati said. "I've had a lot of tough matches with not only them, but a lot of other players on the Tour. There's a lot of depth."

Apr 16th, 2003, 09:30 AM
I'd like to see her take this title :-)