Tennis: Capriati ready to resume career: American is offered wild cards for two events as Graf is told to rest

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The Independent Online
AT the age of 18, after 12 months' absence during which her rackets were set aside while she made several visits to police stations, returned to school and spent time at a drug rehabilitation centre, Jennifer Capriati has decided to resume her career.

'It's going to be different this time,' the Olympic champion said after requests for wild cards had been granted for tournaments in Zurich on 3 October, and Filderstadt on 10 October. 'I'm not going to put a lot of pressure on myself. I just want to play again, have fun, and see how it goes.'

Capriati has not played since losing to the Georgian Leila Meskhi in the first round of last year's US Open. 'It may seem like a sudden decision to some people, but I've wanted to play for some time,' she said yesterday. 'I've thought it out and figure - why not? - that I'm mentally ready to play.'

Shortly before Christmas, Capriati was detained by police in a shopping mall in Tampa, Florida, for walking away from a jewellery kiosk without paying for a ring. In May, she was charged with possession of marijuana, prior to which she was reportedly treated at a Florida rehabilitation centre in February.

In June, after Capriati's release from the substance abuse unit of Mount Sinai Medical Centre, in Miami, authorities agreed the arrest would be deleted from her record if she stayed out of trouble for a year.

News of Capriati's comeback coincided with word from Steffi Graf's agent that the world No 1 had been ordered to rest for two or three weeks by her doctor after a recurrence of her back injury.

At the moment, Graf still intends to participate in Zurich, and also the Brighton International on 17 October. George Hendon, the tournament director, intends to offer Capriati a wild card.

The Zurich event marks the professional debut of Martina Hingis a week after her 14th birthday. The junior champion of Wimbledon and the French Open will be one of the last 14-year-olds allowed on the tour before the minimum age is raised to 16, largely as a consequence of what has befallen Capriati since her spectacular start four years ago.

Martina Navratilova, 38 next month, will also be in Zurich, making one of her farewell appearances.