No.1 Spotlight: Jennifer Capriati
Published June 18, 2013 12:00
Jennifer Capriati was the prodigy of tennis prodigies. Before making her professional debut, the New York-born, Florida-raised Capriati had already earned in excess of $6 million in endorsements alone, and upon joining the tour, she did not disappoint.
In a debut season that began with a final in Boca Raton and ended with a place in the Top 10, Capriati sent a succession of youngest-ever records tumbling. The years that followed saw her become a Top 10 mainstay, rubbing shoulders with Steffi Graf, Monica Seles and Martina Navratilova.
Following several near misses at majors, at 16, in Barcelona, she struck Olympic gold, defeating home favorite Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario and then Graf in the final. However, the expected breakthrough at one of the four Slams failed to materialize and the teenager spent much of the mid-1990s in the tennis wilderness.
After taking a break from the game, a revitalized Capriati, still only in her early 20s, made a full-time return to the circuit in 1999. What followed was one of sports great comebacks. In 2001, she finally won that elusive Grand Slam, defeating Martina Hingis in the final of the Australian Open. Two more majors would follow, at the French Open and once more at the Australian Open in 2002, before major shoulder and wrist injuries cruelly robbed her of her final years.
• Won three Grand Slam singles titles: 2001 and 2002 Australian Open and 2001 Roland Garros; most recent player to win first two majors of the year and fifth player to win the Australian Open and French Open consecutively (2001)
• Reached final of first professional event at 1990 VS of Florida at 13 years, 11 months, making her youngest tour finalist in WTA history; won first of her 14 WTA titles at 1990 Puerto Rican Open, making her fourth-youngest player to win a WTA title; also became youngest player to crack Top 10 in October 1990 at age 14 years, 235 days and was youngest player to qualify for season-ending WTA Championships that year
• At 2001 Australian Open, became the first player since Tracy Austin (1979 US Open) to complete back-to-back straight set wins over world's Top 2 at a Grand Slam
• Played longest final set in a women's Grand Slam singles final since 1948 (second all-time) at 2001 French Open (d. Kim Clijsters 12-10 in final set)
• Saved four match points in 2002 Australian Open final, recovering from 64 40 to defeat Martina Hingis in three sets
• Defeated Steffi Graf to win Olympic Gold medal at 1992 Barcelona Games
• Rose to No.1 in October 2001, her first of four stints atop the rankings
• Returned to Top 10 after winning 2001 Australian Open and remained there until March 2005. The almost eight-year absence between Top 10 stints is the longest in WTA history.
• Won WTA's Most Impressive Newcomer Award in 1990
•Won WTA's Comeback Player Of The Year Award in 1996
•Won WTA's Player Of The Year Award in 2001, as well as Associated Press Female Athlete Of The Year and SI.com Sportswoman Of The Year
• Received an ESPY for Comeback Player of the Year in 2002. She was also the 2002 Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year, in recognition of her success at Roland Garros in 2001 and the successful defense of her Australian Open title in 2002
• Inducted into International Tennis Hall of Fame in July 2012