Capriati overcome on and off court: Tennis

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The Independent Online
World number one Pete Sampras and Swiss teenager Martina Hingis marched into the second round of the Australian Open here yesterday, Jennifer Capriati broke down in tears after an unexpected defeat and the sixth- seeded Iva Majoli from Croatia lost 7-5, 6-1 to the unheralded Patty Schnyder of Switzerland in the biggest upset on a day when the top players dominated.

But the greatest drama came off court in the media room where Capriati, whom Hingis had replaced as the sport's teenaged darling, burst into tears after being ousted in the first round of her Australian Open comeback.

Four years after her last appearance in Melbourne, when she reached the quarter-finals at the age of 16, Capriati was beaten 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 by fellow American Jolene Watanabe in a performance which left a crowd of fans disappointed.

After reaching the final of a Sydney warm-up tournament on Saturday, where she was beaten by Hingis, Capriati had been expected to enjoy a straightforward passage into the second round.

But Watanabe, a 28-year-old who had never before advanced beyond the first round of the Australian Grand Slam event, was able to stay on the baseline and watch Capriati throw the match away.

"I was pretty disappointed. I didn't think I was playing nearly as well as last week," Capriati told a news conference. But when she was asked how she felt about the warm public support she has enjoyed since returning to tennis, Capriati started to reply: "Just being out there and hearing the crowd..." but then she burst into tears and was escorted away sobbing heavily.

The 16-year-old Hingis picked up a warning for racket abuse before beating the German veteran Barbara Rittner 6-1, 7-5 on Centre Court. The Czech-born Swiss youngster was warned by the umpire for throwing her racket into the net after a service break against her in the second set that led to a string of errors.

But even if Hingis fails to deny top seed Steffi Graf a fifth Australian Open crown, her financial future is secure. An Italian sportswear firm yesterday announced a five-year sponsorship deal which will give Hingis at least $7.5m (pounds 4.5m) and up to $12m if she ousts Graf from the top spot.

Sampras, top seed and favourite for the men's title, crushed the Romanian qualifier Dinu Pescariu 6-2, 6-4, 6-2. His fellow American, the men's 11th seed and former champion Jim Courier, survived a first-round scare against the Dutchman Sjeng Schalken, beating him 8-6 in the fifth set of a marathon match.

Like Sampras and Boris Becker before him, Courier complained that the balls being used in the tournament were too soft. But the tournament director, Paul McNamee, claimed that the balls were no different from those used last year.

On a sweltering but blustery second day, Goran Ivanisevic, the third seed, mastered the awkward conditions, hammering 15 aces to demolish Australian qualifier Ben Ellwood in straight sets.

The women's second seed, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, and the men's 10th seed, Albert Costa, added to Spain's early successes with straight-sets victories. All five Spanish seeds in the tournament have advanced to the second round. The Dutchman Jan Siemerink, seeded 13, was the only top man to fall yesterday, losing in five sets to the Norwegian Christian Ruud.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 23

Ignacio Truyol yesterday became the first player to be banned from the ATP Tour for failing a drugs test. The Spaniard, who tested positive for a steroid and a stimulant which he claimed were prescribed for back pain, was banned for a year and loses $39,985 (pounds 24,300) in prize-money plus ranking points.

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