From The Vault: Jennifer Capriati’s Greatest Triumph
April 16, 2012
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Last week it was announced that Jennifer Capriati will be honoured at the Tennis Hall of Fame later this year. The reaction was unanimous satisfaction at the decision to honour the former world number one and three time Grand Slam champion. And rightly so. Even by the lofty standards of those who have achieved what she had achieved, it’s difficult to think of a player who has ridden the rollercoaster of professional tennis quite as thoroughly as the American.
In her career she has enjoyed the greatest of times - bursting onto the tour as a 13 year old girl/child/infant/toddler/baby/foetus, a year later she became the youngest player in the history of tennis to reach the top 10, she defeated Steffi Graf to win the Olympic Gold in Barcelona aged 16, she embarked on quite a legendary comeback which took her from rock bottom to the pinnacle of the tennis world and brought her those numerous Slams that she was destined to win, and so on, and on, and on…
But as we have come to learn in life, sports, and never moreso than in Jen-Cap’s capricious career, the line between triumph and disaster is perilously thin. Accompanying those career-defining moments were those catastrophic times - from her infamous burnout and breakdown which culminated in her career seemingly lying in tatters as she was arrested for shoplifting and possession of marijuana, to the on-court tantrums and drama, her numerous heartbreaking losses at the semifinal stage at her home slam, her embarrassing firing from the US Fed Cup team after breaking USTA rules, the injury that ultimately ended her career and her recent struggles with drugs which left her in hospital in 2010. To say that her career has been a mixed bag would be quite the understatement.
Of all of the memorable moments of her career, what stands out most is that final against Hingis at the Australian Open in 2002. For most of the match she was simply outplayed by a more successful and better opponent, but down 4-6 0-4 and then two match points in the energy-sucking Australian heat that forced both players to sit in the shade between points, the American she dug in deeper than she ever had before, thinking through the heat to wrestle the first away with a well-thought out point finished at the net. She eventually took the match to a third set on a tiebreak after saving the second with a soul-destroying rally, before steamrolling through the final set to lift up her third Grand Slam championship in two years. Though it turned out to be the final Slam victory of Capriati’s career, it was undoubtedly her greatest.