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Capriati Crushes Torrens Valero To Reach U.S. Open Second Round

Photo By Susan Mullane By Richard Pagliaro

The absence of the Williams sisters may have diminished the star power of the U.S. Open, but tonight sixth-seeded Jennifer Capriati left Cristina Torrens Valero star struck before she even struck a shot.

Clad in a blue dress stamped with bright white stars that the two-time U.S. Open semifinalist characterized as "Star Spangled Jennifer" Capriati crushed Torrens Valero, 6-0, 6-1 to advance to the second round.

On the strength of sparkling strokes that saw her crack 14 winners and convert five of six break points, Capriati’s crisp timing allowed her to basically blow the 28-year-old Spaniard off the court. It was a commanding performance from Capriati, who won points so easily her greatest struggle was staying interested.

"You can lose your concentration and almost get bored," Capriati said. "The first match is always tough, especially at a Grand Slam just to get the nerves out. It was a pretty easy match so I couldn’t really tell where I was. I still feel like I was hitting the ball well, (I) just wasn’t challenged at all."

Twenty minutes before the match began, John McEnroe concluded a performance fronting his rock band at the sixth annual benefit for the City Parks Foundation by telling the collected crowd, "Capriati, 6-3, 6-1!" McEnroe’s prediction wasn’t far off the mark as Capriati’s match lasted about the length of McEnroe’s set — she dismissed Torrens Valero in a mere 35 minutes, accommodating those fans anxiously awaiting the Andy Roddick-Tim Henman match that followed.

The rest of the competitors in the WTA Tour constellation have subsisted in the shadows of the Williams sisters’ substantial star power at the Open as Venus and Serena have combined to claim four consecutive U.S. Open crowns. Capriati, who succumbed to Venus in the 2001 semifinals, has had little success against either sister in recent years and realizes this may be her best shot to win the Open.

"Whether the Williamses are here or not, I always feel like I’m confident and have a chance to win," Capriati said. "I think for all the players, they’re probably feeling the same way. Like whoever’s going to take this title, there’s going to be an asterisk next to it saying, ‘Oh, but the Williams sisters weren’t here.’ It’s still a lot of depth. I think it’s still going to be a very difficult tournament to win."

Capriati conquered Amelie Mauresmo and Lindsay Davenport to win her first tournament title since the 2002 Australian Open at the Pilot Pen in New Haven last weekend. The 27-year-old Capriati appears to be in better condition now than she was earlier in the year and a fitter Capriati typically makes her a smarter player as her ability to get to more balls sharpens her shot selection.

"I really hadn’t been playing bad the last few months, I think I was just kind of getting back to where I was when I had the really good results," Capriati said. "When I feel good physically and mentally, it’s amazing how things turn around in my game for me. I really just feel the ball and I feel more confident."

Facing a second-round match against 121st-ranked Slovak Martina Sucha, Capriati can feel confident about sticking around the Open for a potential third-round showdown with Maria Sharapova.

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I hope Jen carries this form at least until the third round. Maria Sharapova is much more tougher than this girl so Jen has to be careful. But still I'm expecting a semi-trashing from Jen here.
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