She at least took a set off the young American, which is more than anyone else has done, but eventually lost 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. Capriati will now meet the No 1 seed, Steffi Graf, in tomorrow's final. Graf, the defending champion (she also won when tennis was a demonstration event at Los Angeles in 1984) swept past Mary Joe Fernandez, 6-4, 6-2.
Capriati was out of the blocks as fast as Linford Christie, stunning Sanchez Vicario and the partisan crowd by taking a 4-0 lead and beating the Spaniard at her own baseline game.
Sanchez Vicario came back in the second, but the 16-year-old American broke her three times in succession for a 5-1 lead in the third and the match was over.
Indeed, the only difficult moment Capriati experienced was when King Jaun Carlos and Queen Sofia caused a few minutes of commotion when they dropped in to encourage Sanchez Vicario. 'I didn't know who they were,' Capriati said later. 'I just thought 'couldn't they have waited a bit'?'
Graf's win against Fernandez was something of a formality. The two have met nine times and the American has yet to win a set. 'It was hard for me to concentrate,' Graf said. 'I like the way she plays, and I know I'm going to do all right.'
Wayne Ferreira and Piet Norval put South Africa in sight of their first gold medal on their return to the Games after a 30-year absence when they beat the Croatians, Goran Ivanisevic and Goran Prpic, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6,
6-2 in the semi-final of the men's doubles. The bronze that Ivanisevic and Prpic receive is Croatia's first-ever Olympic medal.