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AP - Melbourne, Australia — American Jennifer Capriati doubled over and leaned on her racket to catch her breath.

She was between points during a 20-point tie-breaker against Italy's Rita Grande in the fourth round of the Australian Open tennis tournament Monday, and in need of just a little extra breathing room.

It turns out, though, that Capriati is in even better shape than she was last year, when she won her first Grand Slam tournament title here.

And that's part of the reason she beat Grande 6-3, 7-6 (9) in a match that ended on a double fault.

"It was a bad ending but I think I earned that," the top-seeded Capriati said. "If I wasn't fit, I probably wouldn't have been able to pull that match out."

Grande, seeded 20th, said Capriati looks fitter.

"She moves better, I think, than last year," she said. "Even forward, because I tried to do some drop shots (and Capriati retrieved them).

"Maybe last year, she didn't go so far inside the court."

The pair played long rallies in the second set, and both players sweated heavily under the retractable centre-court roof that was closed because of rain.

"It was a lot to her advantage," said Capriati, who plays a power game from the baseline. "I had to be very patient and consistent."

Grande hit big serves and chipped backhand slices that floated into the backcourt. But her fatigue caught up with her on her first of two set points in the tie-breaker when she netted an easy smash.

"I was tired after a good rally," she said. "My legs didn't go up."

Capriati, who also won the French Open last year, says she has improved her fitness by working in the last few months with Chantal Menard, a kick boxing world champion.

"I look at this match as a way to help me build my fitness even more," Capriati said. "Hopefully, this will make me stronger for the upcoming matches."

She will play seventh-seeded Amelie Mauresmo of France in the quarter-finals.
 
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