Capriati back on road to recovery

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The Independent Online
Tennis

Jennifer Capriati yesterday took the first step towards convincing the world that she has overcome tennis burn-out, teenage rebellion and drug rehabilitation when she recorded her first tournament victory for two and a half years.

On her long-awaited return in Essen, the 19-year-old American overwhelmed the No 7 seed, Kristie Boogert of the Netherlands, 6-1, 6-2 in a 51-minute, first-round rout. Capriati made up for bouts of apparent nervousness and a tentative serve with precise returns of serve and double-fisted backhand winners.

Boogert, ranked 32nd in the world, never found her rhythm against Capriati, playing her first competitive match in 15 months. "It meant the world to me," Capriati said of her victory. "It's a long time since I have been out playing in front of a lot of people but I didn't feel a lot of pressure - I didn't let myself feel it."

Capriati's play did not entirely bear this out. Once ranked No 6 in the world, she seemed tense during the match though, at the end, she smiled broadly. It was only her second match since she quit the Tour in 1993. Capriati's return had been planned for last week at the Paris Open but she withdrew at the last minute with a pulled hip muscle. Capriati next meets Barbara Schett, a 19-year-old Austrian, ranked 56th on the WTA list.

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