Welcome to French Open Flashbacks, where wtatennis.com will take a look back at some of the most memorable narratives from Roland Garros over the past 20 years. After recapping Charleston's classics, Stuttgart's standards, Madrid’s magic moments, and Rome's records, our retrospective heads to the culmination of the clay season in Paris - up next is the confirmation of Jennifer Capriati's comeback with a record-setting 2001 championship match.
For more classic moments, check out our other French Open Flashbacks:
1999: Stefanie Graf wins 22nd and final Grand Slam title
2014: Halep serves notice in run to first final in Paris
THE MOMENT: With a litany of teenage phenoms to marvel at over the last 25 years, from Martina Hingis to Coco Gauff, the sheer record-setting prowess of Jennifer Capriati's appearance on the tennis scene could get lost in the shuffle. Make no mistake, though -- when the fiery Floridian emerged, she quickly became a force to be reckoned with.
In 1990, Capriati made the final of her debut WTA event at Boca Raton just before her 14th birthday, becoming the youngest WTA singles finalist. She made her Grand Slam debut at 1990 Roland Garros, and right there, at age 14, became the youngest Grand Slam semifinalist in history. She cracked the Top 10 of the singles rankings later that year -- breaking that youngest-ever record as well.
In 1991, she made two more Grand Slam semifinals, breaking the youngest Wimbledon semifinalist record in the process. The next year, at age 16, she won the gold medal at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, shocking Stefanie Graf in the final. The ascent to World No.1 and Grand Slam champion seemed nearly complete.
However, her rise plateaued, and Capriati called off the remainder of her 1993 season after her first-ever opening-round loss at a Grand Slam event at that season's US Open. The popular American played only one event in 1994 and not at all in 1995.
WTA fans were pleased to see her return to the courts in 1996, but a fitful few seasons followed, where she ping-ponged between the Top 30 and outside of the Top 200.
Nevertheless, Capriati continued to push through her return, aiming to fulfill the tremendous promise of her debut seasons. She was eventually rewarded with a surprising run to the semifinals of the 2000 Australian Open, her first final-four showing at a major since 1991.
By the end of that year, the American had pulled herself back inside the Top 15 for the first time since 1994, signalling a potential return to the peak of women's tennis.
Indeed, 2001 was the year Capriati put it all together. To start the year, she claimed her maiden Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, defeating Top 4 seeds Monica Seles, Lindsay Davenport, and Martina Hingis successively in the final three rounds.
By the time Roland Garros came around, Capriati had won Charleston and reached three additional finals, improving her ranking from World No.14 to World No.4. In Paris, Capriati stormed to the quarterfinals without the loss of a set, where she outlasted No.6 seed Serena Williams in three sets.
In the semifinals, Capriati defeated World No.1 Martina Hingis in straight sets, continuing her perfect head-to-head against Hingis in 2001. Capriati had already beaten the top-ranked player in the Australian Open and Charleston finals that season.
An slightly unexpected opponent awaited Capriati in the final -- No.12 seed Kim Clijsters, who, in the previous round, had come back from a set and a break down to overcome her fellow Belgian Justine Henin in a battle between first-time Grand Slam semifinalists.
A No.12 seeding did not mean much, as Capriati had also been seeded No.12 when she won the Australian Open in January. Still, the American was viewed as the heavy favorite over Clijsters, who was contesting her first-ever Grand Slam final the day after her 18th birthday.
However, Clijsters had been named the WTA Newcomer of the Year in 1999, and was just coming off a run to the Indian Wells final two months prior. As the match began, the Belgian backed up those credentials, at one point winning seven consecutive games to build a stunning 6-1, 1-0 lead over the No.4 seed.
Capriati, who had 39 unforced errors in the opening frame, used her vaunted tenacity to grit her way into a three-set tussle. The American pulled ahead by a break at 4-2, then held onto her serve for the remainder of the second set to claim it 6-4 and level the match.
This queued up a rip-roaring final set for the title. Without a tiebreak, the combatants powered through a grueling decider. Capriati twice served for the match, at 7-6 and 10-9, but Clijsters pulled back on serve in both instances, and the Belgian found herself two points away from victory four times.
Capriati earned another crucial break with a winning overhead to go up 11-10 and serve for the match once more. There, the American converted match point with a forehand winner to claim victory, 1-6, 6-4, 12-10. The 22 games in the 79-minute final set became a record for most games played in a Roland Garros women's singles final in the Open Era (since 1968).
THE MEANING: If anyone had assumed the Australian Open victory was lightning in a bottle, Capriati's triumph at a second straight Grand Slam event silenced the doubters, particularly after a whisker-thin win over a rising star who was swinging away and had nothing to lose.
"I was fighting until the end, fighting for my life out there," the American exclaimed, following her victory. "I just wanted to win so bad. Afterwards, everything paid off, all the fight."
"Maybe I wasn't playing my best tennis, but at the right times I picked it up," Capriati stated, as she became the first women's singles player to win the first two legs of the calendar Grand Slam since Monica Seles won the Australian Open and Roland Garros in 1992.
"Who knows what can happen?" Capriati responded, as the potential for the sweep was posed to her. "I feel comfortable on the grass." Capriati would go on to extend her Grand Slam match-winning streak to 19-0, but lost in the 2001 Wimbledon semifinals to Justine Henin.
Despite that defeat, with a gritty victory in the Roland Garros final on her resume, Capriati fulfilled all of her long-awaited dreams, over a decade after bursting onto the scene as a precocious phenom.
Her 2001 French Open fierceness would lead to her first stint at World No.1 later that season, a third major title at the 2002 Australian Open, and induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2012.