Capriati impresses, though challenged
The San Diego Union-Tribune
Thursday, August 27, 1992
Author: ED GRANEY
Good as gold? No. Good enough? Of course.
The world's elite women's tennis players -- how many are there now, five? -- stand above the rest because they have something different. Something that raises their games at crucial times, something that makes them the automatic favorite during any third-set tiebreakers.
Graf and her forehand. Seles and her determination. Navratilova and her experience. Sabatini and her all-around game.
"She's got the power!"
America's teen-age Olympic champion opened defense of her Mazda Tennis Classic title last night, dismissing Austria's Judith Wiesner 6-4, 6-1 before 4,032 at La Costa Resort & Spa.
This was no beat-her-easy, walk-in-the-park, first-round victory. This wasn't Tuesday night, when top-seeded Gabriela Sabatini took more time signing autographs then she did in beating Kimberly Po 6-0, 6-0.
This was 1 hour, 16 minutes. This was eight games reaching deuce. This was Wiesner serving at 4-5, 40-love in the first set.
This, like few first-rounders against the likes of a Capriati, was a match.
"I want the matches to get harder as the tournament goes on," Capriati said. "I like running around and being able to sweat during a match.
"(Wiesner) played well at certain points. She was aggressive. She can change things up."
Granted, Wiesner is an experienced player, one with enough winners in her racket to be ranked 22nd. But one of the reasons Capriati won the gold and will be among the favorites in this year's U.S. Open is her ability to answer at the best of times.
Example: That 10th game of the first set. A big serve away from catching Capriati at 5-all, Wiesner watched the second-seed hit a forehand winner, hit a forehand winner and ran down a fine Wiesner drop for -- what else? -- a forehand winner. Oh goodbye, three game points.
Fact is, each time Capriati needed a point -- or just wanted to end a long rally -- she'd go boom from either side. Want confidence? Serving at 3-1 in the first set, Capriati fired off a 100 mph ace. On a second serve.
"Really?" she asked. "I didn't notice."
It was Capriati's first tournament match since beating Steffi Graf in Barcelona on Aug. 8. That win was a statement that finally this talent was ready to stand among the great -- able and willing to compete for Grand Slam titles. Each one. Each time.
"I'm very motivated," Capriati said. "I don't think anyone expected me to win the gold, so there was no pressure there. There might be some more now. It really hasn't sunk in yet."
And what of her popularity since returning home? Do more people stop, take a second look and realize?
"Yeah, but it's not like I've been getting mobbed," she said. "Just a few more people at the mall."
She plays again tomorrow, against the winner of today's match between seventh-seeded Zina Garrison and former San Diego State star Monique Javer. Plans for young Capriati's day of rest?
"I heard they've got a good zoo here."