Tennis: Capriati sinks Seles on road back to top

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Jennifer Capriati revived her game and an old rivalry when she upset the joint world No 1 Monica Seles in the semi-finals of the Ameritech Cup in Chicago to reach a tournament final for the first time since 1993.

Capriati, ranked 50th and on the comeback trail after being out of the game for two years because of personal problems and injuries, beat Seles, 6-3, 6-3. In the other smei-final, Jana Novotna staged a comeback herself in her 7-5, 6-4 victory over the Swiss teenager Martina Hingis.

Capriati last appeared in a final in the Canadian Open three years ago. Her last championship victory was in Sydney, Australia, earlier that year. "More than anything, I did this for myself," Capriati said. "It was, for me, self-satisfaction."

The two exchanged service breaks in the first four games of the first set, each sticking to their trademark baseline style. Capriati broke Seles again in a key seventh game, although Seles was at set point twice. Seles, who shares the top ranking with Steffi Graf, struggled in the second set, scoring just one point off Capriati's serve in her last four games.

For Capriati, even reaching the semi-finals was an accomplishment. The 20-year-old American was a late entry into the Chicago event and was unseeded. She had not previously gone past the quarter-finals this year.

Seles's comeback after being stabbed in the back in Hamburg in 1993 has been more successful, including a victory this year in the Australian Open. But she had been bothered by a sore left shoulder since then, and this event was her first test after a month of extensive rehabilitation.

Capriati has lost twice to Novotna this year, at Essen and Zurich, both times in the quarter-final round. "This whole week I've felt myself play well," Capriati said. "This is what I've been working for, working to see if I could be up there again and play good tennis."

In the other semi-final, Hingis was at set point three times in the first set and had a 4-1 lead in the second set, yet Novotna fought back. She broke Hingis in the ninth and 11th games. The 16-year-old threw her racket in frustration towards the net at the end of the 11th game and was handed a violation by the umpire.

Thomas Enqvist prevented Yevgeny Kafelnikov from completing a unique French double by beating the Russian, 6-2, 6-4, 7-5, in the Paris Open final. The French Open champion, who lost for the first time in three successive tournaments in France, was looking to add the Bercy title to his Grand Slam triumph at Roland Garros in June.

"I played probably the best match of my life," said the 12th-seeded Swede, who did not drop a set in a tournament that saw nine seeds, including the No 1 and title holder Pete Sampras, tumble in the second round.