Capriati Inducted Into Tennis Hall Of Fame
Published July 14, 2012 12:00
NEWPORT, RI, USA - Three-time Grand Slam champion and former World No.1 Jennifer Capriati was given one of the greatest honors in tennis on Saturday, as she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall Of Fame in Newport.
All of the Class Of 2012 inductees got to choose someone to give their presentation speech, and Capriati chose fellow WTA legend Monica Seles.
"It's an important and happy day as we celebrate the new class of inductees, including my friend Jennifer Capriati," Seles said. "Jennifer and I grew up together. We were two teenagers on the tour thrown into this adult world, where the spotlight was so bright, the expectations and demands intense. While we competed fiercely against each other, we could also relate to one another. We shared a bond and great admiration and most importantly, mutual respect.
"From the moment she arrived on tour at the age of 13 she was a force. By the end of her first year, she had become the youngest player ever to finish ranked in the Top 10, at age 14. With her success and outgoing personality, she quickly became America's sweetheart. But this America's sweetheart could crush the ball. Trust me, I've been on the other end of them, and it was no fun. But I also got to experience it thankfully on the same side of the net when in Rome we won our only doubles title together. I wish we played more.
"As accomplished as Jennifer was at such a young age in 1992, at age 16 she won an Olympic gold medal for her country. It wasn't during her early years that she had her greatest success, though - it was years later, after staring down challenges on and off the court, when she showed what a champion she is.
"In a comeback for the ages, she would win all three of her Grand Slam titles and become No.1. Her force of will on a blistering day in Melbourne in 2002, when she found herself a set and 0-4 down in the finals of the Australian Open facing another great champion, Martina Hingis, she would fight off four match points to win her final Grand Slam title. As powerful as her groundstrokes were, it was her fight that was her greatest weapon. No matter what challenges were thrown Jennifer's way, she fought, she fought and she fought. More than her incredible records, more than the power game she helped pave the way for, that's her true legacy. It earned her more titles and fans than anything else. And today it earns her a place in the International Tennis Hall Of Fame."
Capriati teared up as she approached the podium to address the crowd.
"I knew this would happen," the iconic 36-year-old American said as she wiped her eyes. "Nobody told me the toughest part was holding back the tears!
"Monica, thank you from the bottom of my heart today for being here. That was beautiful. You are a friend, a great champion, and someone who inspired me as a great rival, an adversary on the court. I have always admired you for your relentless determination, your fight, and most importantly your character as a person. You truly are a class act and I'm honored to be introduced by you.
"I can't believe this day is here. I wasn't sure if it would ever come and if I would have the chance to take my place on center court again. It's been eight years too long. Honestly, I never thought I would get this opportunity to be back at a place where I have spent all my life, a place where I grew up, transformed and defined myself through. I've spent my life either being on a tennis court or missing the tennis court. It's humbling, it's gratifying, and it makes me so incredibly proud to be here today, celebrating this moment with you all.
"When I received the call from the Hall Of Fame that I was being nominated, the tears and emotions were just overwhelming. I left the game earlier than expected, earlier than I wanted to, and because of this I was not able to leave the game on my terms. I was not able to thank everyone who had such a positive impact on my life. I knew this honor would provide me with the platform to give thanks to those people, those who helped me, loved me, believed in me, supported me, and ultimately inspired me. I knew I would be able to pay tribute to a game I love and always think about. I would also be able to acknowledge and embrace what my blood, sweat, tears, determination and heart has brought me. I would be able to remember who I am again and give myself a voice again.
"It's really hard to describe all the amazing moments and experiences I've had in 36 years, what just seems like a few moments. I dreamed of tennis as a little girl. I dreamed of being the best. I have to say I achieved all my dreams and more. Even though my life took some twists and turns I didn't expect, I still managed to overcome adversity, win Grand Slams, pocket a gold medal, become No.1, and now stand at the podium of the Hall Of Fame.
"It hasn't been easy. I'm still learning. The transition and acceptances I've had to make have been some of the most difficult, and I've had to work hard on letting go, letting go of the fact there might not be any more comebacks. But I don't need to be on a tennis court to be a part of this game. I don't need to be on a tennis court to remember who I am. Tennis will be forever in my heart.
"I'd like to express how hard I fought to come back. It was a great struggle for me all these years, dealing with the injuries and accepting the fact I might not return to competition again. I worked extremely hard during my career on the court and equally as hard, if not harder, to come back. That's why this moment is so incredible on so many levels, because this is a return to the game I love."
At the end of her speech, Capriati thanked her family, those who supported her and lastly, her fans - which drew shouts of "We love you" from the crowd.
"I love you, too. You have always been in my corner and always believed in who I am. You, my fans, always knew I gave 100% every time I stepped on the court. I can only hope the next phase of my life will be as fulfilling as this last one."