|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
14 - 20 June 2001
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
The full circle
One of the more inspiring sports stories this year must be that of American Jennifer Capriati who, by winning the French Open this week, showed conclusively that when at times you don't succeed, forget your multi-million dollar contracts and the sky-high expectations people put on you.
The pressure of those two factors were the main reasons behind Capriati's downfall after she made history -- and a glowing start in her career-- as a 14-year-old semi-finalist in Paris. True, in the midst of her personal problems, she still had enough resolve to overpower the dominant force in tennis in 1992, then German legend Steffi Graf, to snatch the Olympic Games gold medal in Barcelona and reach a career high of fourth in the world ranking in 1993. But it was painfully apparent that those successes were, if anything, eating at, not building up, her fortitude. The money and the spotlight soon got to her, leading to burnout and arrest on charges of shoplifting and possession of marijuana, forcing her to leave the game in 1994. When Capriati returned to the circuit, she probably wished she had not, for she had dropped to 267th in the world in 1998.
For the next three years, Capriati would play reasonable tennis, her teenage misadventures placed firmly behind her and her days of stardom apparently over.
But the focus returned and the comeback began. The new champion played eight tournaments this year, achieving a 27-6 won-lost record in which she routed three top players, including a pair of victories over top ranked Swiss Martina Hingis and one each over the USA's Lindsay Davenport and Serena Williams.
More important in this super-productive year, she has won two Grand Slams: the Australian and the French Open. The Roland Garros championship title made Capriati the fifth to win the first two majors of the season in the same year and the first American to wear the French crown since Chris Evert in 1986.
Her French Open win has put her halfway to a Grand Slam sweep. She still has two majors ahead to complete the Grand Slam; Wimbledon in July and the US Open in September. The immediate question following her French Open victory was whether Capriati could indeed win all four majors in one year. She is 14-0 in the two majors thus far, fuelling speculation that the feat is achievable.
But even if she falters in Wimbledon or the US Open or both, nobody can take this year away from Capriati. At 25, she is amazing the world as she did at the beginning of the last decade. The former teen-age prodigy has resurrected a career derailed by drugs and personal crises to become the dominant player in women's tennis. From a player who had never won a Grand Slam event to one who has won two in six months, she has gone from up, to down, to up. Jennifer Capriati has come full circle.
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