Capriati Still Travels on the Trail of Tears; Tennis: She is bounced from the Australian Open in the first round just as she was four years ago, losing to Watanabe of Arcadia
The Los Angeles Times Jan 14, 1997;
Jennifer Capriati's comeback at the Australian Open turned into one more sad crash course and a departure in tears reminiscent of her last trip Down Under four years ago.
Amid whipping winds, wild shots and moon balls by Jolene Watanabe of Arcadia, Capriati's return to the Australian Open ended with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 loss today in the first round.
Capriati, ranked No. 24 after reaching the final of the Sydney International last week, insisted that this loss won't have the same effect as the one that sent her game and life skidding out of control on her last visit.
Though she lost to a fellow American who was ranked No. 78, a 28-year-old who had never gotten past the second round here in three tries and who had no big shots to threaten her, Capriati said she will learn from this experience.
"I'm not going to let this discourage me at all," said Capriati, 20. "I have enough desire to work to reach my potential, still. I'm going to do everything I can to get that. I think it's more mental with me than just physical. I think one of the most important things is to find a coach right now.
"I'm not going to let this get me down, or let me think I can't play anymore. I will try to think positive still and go for the next one."
Capriati, nervous at the start and tentative most of the match, broke down in tears afterward and again a little later when asked if she was aware of all the hope by her fans that she would succeed after coming back from an arrest, a long layoff and drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
"Yeah," she said, "just being out there, I heard the cries."
Tears welled as she spoke, a forlorn look on her face, and she couldn't go on. Just as she left crying after a quarterfinals loss in 1993, so she departed the same way this time.
Capriati failed to hold service in five consecutive games in the first and second sets, and her serve let her down again in the third set when she was broken twice to fall behind 4-1. Although she saved two match points on Watanabe's serve in the final game, she netted one last backhand to lose.
"It was the perfect opportunity to beat her after her big wins last week," said Watanabe, who lofted endless lobs and topspin shots in the wind and waited for Capriati's inevitable errors. "She may be a little tired physically and mentally. The conditions definitely favored me with the wind."