The day that Jennifer Capriati performed the match of her profession was sweltering.
It was late January 2002, and Capriati, then 25, was dealing with Martina Hingis, 21, within the ladies’s closing of the Australian Open in Melbourne. The situations had been so oppressive — on-court temperatures reached 115 Fahrenheit (46 Celsius) — that each gamers slumped in opposition to stadium backdrops between factors, even after bathing in ice throughout a 10-minute break between the second and third units. They even took turns plopping their worn-out our bodies down in a lineswoman’s chair.
It’s been 20 years since Capriati came back from a set and 4-0 right down to defeat Hingis 4-6, 7-6 (9-7), 6-2 and declare the third and closing main of her profession. In doing so, she turned the primary lady in Grand Slam historical past to save lots of 4 match factors and win the title.
“The way in which they each had been hitting in that match was simply wonderful,” stated Harold Solomon, Capriati’s coach from 1999 to 2000. “Jennifer was a tremendous ball striker as a result of she took the ball so early and she or he wasn’t afraid, even when she was down. She was pretty much as good an athlete as anybody who has ever been within the recreation, and that features the Williams sisters.”
The match would go down as one of many biggest comebacks in ladies’s Grand Slam tennis historical past. No lady since has saved 4 match factors to win a serious closing.
Capriati had her skilled debut in March 1990, simply earlier than her 14th birthday and reached the semifinals of the French Open that yr and the spherical of 16 at Wimbledon and the USA Open. By the top of the season she had gained her first WTA match and was ranked inside the world’s high 10.
Hingis was additionally a baby prodigy. She reached her first U.S. Open semifinal in 1996 when she was 15 years outdated. The next yr she superior to the finals of all 4 majors, successful Wimbledon and the Australian and U.S. Opens.
In 1992, Capriati beat Steffi Graf to win gold on the Barcelona Olympics. However a collection of occasions in 1993 and ’94, together with a shoplifting cost, an arrest for marijuana possession and a stint in drug rehab, practically derailed her profession.
However Capriati fought her approach again, and in 2001 she gained the Australian Open by beating Hingis, the world No. 1. Capriati adopted that up with a win over Kim Clijsters within the closing of the French Open and semifinal finishes at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. In October 2001, Capriati turned No. 1 on this planet.
“Willpower and can had been all the time sturdy fits for Jennifer,” stated Denise Capriati, Jennifer’s mom, by telephone from her Florida house. “She all the time knew easy methods to combat.”
However no match was as placing because the 2002 Australian final. Hingis raced to a 6-4, 4-0 lead and held a degree for 5-0. She did so by utilizing Capriati’s blistering tempo to hit brief angles adopted by forays to the web and tender contact volley winners.
However Hingis double-faulted on a key level and Capriati took benefit. She saved one match level with a backhand down-the-line winner and one other after a 14-stroke rally. Two extra match factors glided by the wayside within the tiebreaker prompting Hingis to toss her racket in disgust earlier than each gamers left the courtroom for the cool of the locker room.
“At that time, we knew Jennifer had the match,” stated her mom, who was seated within the gamers’ field. “She was higher within the warmth.”
Hingis had leg cramps and was handled after the fifth recreation of the third set. Within the subsequent recreation she served three inexplicable foot faults and handed the essential break to Capriati.
“I actually don’t know the way I managed to win,” Capriati stated on the time. “I obtained my second wind, third wind, fourth wind, I don’t know what number of winds on the market.”
For Hingis, who reached the Australian closing six straight years, successful the title from 1997 to ’99, the loss was devastating. “It was a troublesome closing for her to lose, and it’s tough for her to speak about/wish to replicate,” Natasha Marks, her consultant, stated in a textual content message. Hingis declined to be interviewed for this text.
Capriati didn’t reply to repeated telephone and textual content messages.
After the hype early in her profession, Capriati engineered her personal free fall after which her personal resurgence. The 2002 Australian Open was the fruits.
“She wished it so dangerous,” Denise stated. “She had fought so arduous and accomplished so many issues. She was so disciplined to return again. She was doing it only for herself.”