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Jennifer Capriati

Burned Out

Talk of Capriati's potential to burn out early began before the teen phenomenon ever turned professional. She was continually compared to teen stars Tracy Austin and Andrea Jaeger who had both peaked early, but had short careers due to injuries. However, Capriati's parents were aware of these incidents and they tried to prevent the same thing from happening to their daughter. In particular, they took her to the Virginia Sportsmedicine Institute for physical and psychological testing. They started Jennifer on a special conditioning program to help prevent injuries. They also tried to insulate her from the media and allow her to have a normal teenage life when she was not playing tennis.

Capriati managed to keep up her good grades at the Palmer Academy by doing her homework by fax when she was on the road. However, in 1992 she started to show signs of burn out. Her grades began to slip in school and she was acting rebelliously toward her parents and on the court. Capriati's father was criticized for pushing his daughter too hard at such a young age. He responded by stepping down as her coach and hiring Pavel Slozil to fill that role. "Right now she needs me as a father, not as a coach," Stefano Capriati explained to Sally Jenkins of Sports Illustrated in March of 1992. "This way we can keep them separate." Denise Capriati also left her job as a flight attendant so that she could spend more time with her children.

By 1993 Capriati began to feel the pressure of being a top-ranked tennis player. She managed to reach the quarterfinals of three Grand Slam tournaments, but she had hoped to finally win a Grand Slam title. In the fall of 1993 she left the WTA tour to finish high school. In December of that year she received a citation from the Tampa police department for shoplifting a cheap ring from a suburban mall. Although she was a minor and the incident should have been kept confidential, the story was leaked to the media, fueling rumors about her burning out.

After Capriati turned 18 she moved out of her parents home and into her own apartment. By May of 1994 she had left no doubt in her critics' minds that she was indeed burned out. She was arrested in Coral Gables, Florida for possession of marijuana. Two teenage friends who were with her were charged with possession of heroin and suspected crack cocaine. Apparently Capriati had been partying all weekend with friends in a cheap motel and her friends claimed that she had been using drugs for at least a year. Two days after she was arrested, Capriati entered a drug rehabilitation program at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach for 28 days.

In September of 1994 the Capriatis moved to Rancho Mirage, California to rebuild their lives and Jennifer's career. "I felt like no one liked me as a person," Capriati told Robin Finn of the New York Times in September of 1994. "I felt like my parents and everybody else thought that tennis was the way to make it in life, they thought it was good, but I thought no one knew or wanted to know the person who was behind my tennis life." Capriati played in one tournament in 1994, but she lost in the first round.

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Famous Sports StarsTennisJennifer Capriati Biography - Tennis Prodigy, Teenage Sensation, Won Olympic Gold, Chronology, Burned Out, Returned To Tennis - CONTACT INFORMATION