Capriati's recent success
is especially surprising
for a few reasons. Women's tennis
has increasingly become dominated by younger and younger players (Venus Williams
and Martina Hingis
, among others). In fact, Hingis's career seems to be already in decline...and she's not even 21 years old. Capriati is currently 25, and considering her long time away from tennis, she might as well be older than that.
In addition, she's not tall or very powerfully built in comparison to world-class players Venus Williams and Lindsay Davenport.
Her ability to make up for both of these disadvantages is due to Capriati being in TREMENDOUS physical shape. She's trained very very hard and is in the best shape of her life. As a result, Capriati's been able to keep up with heavy hitters like The Williams Sisters, but also be able to run down balls all over the court. This combination, along with a strong desire to vindicate herself professionally, has led Capriati to becoming the number 2 player in the world (as of August 26, 2001 WTA rankings).
The comparison of Capriati to Monica Seles in the excellent writeup above is especially noteworthy. By the time Seles was stabbed in Germany in 1993, she had already won 8 Grand Slam singles tournaments (to Capriati's 0). Capriati was a bit more than 2 years younger than Seles, but was still often compared to Monica. As time went on, Capriati didn't win any Grand Slam events and pressure mounted. To be fair though, during this time period, Grand Slam tournaments were dominated by only two women. From the 1991 Australian Open through the 1994 Australian Open, either Seles or Steffi Graf won EVERY Grand Slam event...a span of 13 tournaments. That Capriati's teen years coincided with the career peaks of 2 of the greatest women's tennis players in history didn't matter much to the media. The media pressure, as well as a sense of failure, helped lead to Capriati's fall from grace.
On a personal note, Capriati in a way represents many of us who were teens in the early '90s. There was always a sense of "the world will be ours" and expectations which often weren't fulfilled. After college or a few years working, we're forced to discover we're not young anymore, and our potential can't carry us anymore. This leads to being forced to reexamine ourselves, and reinvent ourselves to try to be successful. As such, Capriati's success is a nice (albeit shallow, perhaps) motivator, and why I root for her a bit harder than I would otherwise. Because in her, I see me (yes, sappy, I know...).