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Jennifer Capriati

Grand Slam Comeback

Capriati's dream of winning a Grand Slam title finally came true in 2001 when she won the Australian Open. Capriati defeated Martina Hingis, the number one player in the world, by a score of 6-4, 6-3. "The motivation was just to live up to my potential," Capriati told Neil Harman and Andrew Alderson of the Sunday Telegraph. "It was more than just winning a few titles. I wanted the big ones." In order to win the big ones Capriati was committed to get into great shape and to stay focused on her game. "Thanks to a brutal regimen of strength and endurance training, the formerly chunky Capriati had a brand new body, so ripped and muscled it made Hingis look positively waifish," wrote Alex Tresniowski of People magazine.

Capriati followed up on her Australian Open title with another Grand Slam victory at the French Open. She defeated Belgian Kim Clijsters in the finals and dedicated her victory to Corina Marariu, an American player who was battling cancer. Capriati became the first American woman to win the French Open since Chris Evert Lloyd in 1986. "I never thought I'd be standing here 11 years later, after playing my first time here when I was 14 years old," Capriati stated after the tournament, as reported by S.L. Price of Sports Illustrated. "Really, I'm just waiting to wake up from this dream."

After capturing the first two major titles of the year, speculation began about whether Capriati would make a Grand Slam in 2001 by winning the next two major titles. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Capriati lost in the semifinals of Wimbledon to Belgian Justine Henin. She also lost in the semifinals of the U.S. Open to Venus Williams. Capriati finally reached the number one ranking for the first time on October 15, 2001, ending Martina Hingis's 73-week run as number one. She ended the season ranked number two, her first top ten ranking since she left the WTA tour in 1993.

Capriati started 2002 with another win at the Australian Open for her third Grand Slam title. Once again she defeated Martina Hingis in a sweltering final where court temperatures reached 120 degrees. She later reached the semifinals at the French and the quarterfinals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, in a year when Serena Williams dominated women's tennis. Nonetheless, Capriati still finished out the year ranked number three in the world.

Jenny Come Lately

By winning the first Grand Slam title of her career, the 24-year-old Capriati had gone from a cautionary tale to a fairy tale. In a euphoric daze she leaped repeatedly, shook Hingis's hand, dropped her racquet and wiped her tears as she made a beeline to Stefano's perch in the players' box. What did they say to each other, given the serpentine path they'd taken to this destination? "Nothing," Stefano said, smiling. "We didn't have to say a word. Jennifer's present finally licked her past."

Source: Wertheim, L. Jon. Sports Illustrated (February 5, 2001): 54.

At age 26 Jennifer Capriati has experienced all of the ups and downs of a professional tennis player. At age 14 she accomplished many firsts as the youngest professional tennis player. Despite many successful tournaments, she was not able to capture a Grand Slam title in the early years. By age 17 she had burned out and dropped off of the professional tour. After battling family and legal troubles, Capriati made a slow comeback to professional tennis starting in 1996. By 2001 she had attained her goal of a Grand Slam title and she remains one of the top ranked women's players. "For whatever reason, it wasn't supposed to happen back then," Capriati told Juan C. Rodriguez of Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service in October of 2001, "and I would have to say it's definitely been a unique journey for me, unique story, I think, for everyone."

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