Written off in her teens as a failed American prodigy, Jennifer Capriati achieved the biggest win of her latest comeback yesterday, defeating Serena Williams, the 18-year-old United States Open champion, 7-6, 1-6, 6-3, after two hours and 11 minutes to reach the quarter-finals of the Ericsson Open.
Somewhat overweight, but not lacking zeal, Capriati hit shots reminiscent of her astonishing rise to fame as a 13-year-old along the Florida coast at Boca Raton 10 years ago. Tomorrow, when she is due to play Sandrine Testud, of France, marks Capriati's 24th birthday.
"Definitely today she played some of her best tennis," Williams said. "She played some great shots." The most important of those came in moments of crisis, when Capriati broke to force the first-set tie-break, which she won in irresistible style, 7-2, and when she revived strongly in the final set after losing touch with Williams in the second set.
Capriati's game wobbled ominously after breaking to lead 5-1 in the concluding set. She missed a forehand when serving for the match for the first time, and then hit a serve that soared into the first row of the balcony.
Williams, who was defeated by her older sister, Venus, in last year's final, fought back to 3-5, and had three opportunities to break when Capriati served for the match a second time. Capriati held, securing the match with an unreturnable serve. It came as a relief considering she double-faulted 14 times among 65 unforcederrors. Williams made 12 errors more.
The majority of the 10,000 spectators on the Stadium Court cheered Williams' mistakes, but she tried to ignore their lack of sportsmanship. "People were always gunning for me," she said. "I know people are going to play me extremely hard, whereas they might go a little easy on other people."
Although the umpire warned the crowd about using mobile phones, Williams said: "I grew up in the ghetto. I've been used to worse distractions. That'sreally no distraction to me."
The potency of Greg Rusedski's serve and the sensitivity of Pete Sampras' stomach may decide who wins a place in the men's quarter-finals.
Sampras consulted a doctor about changing his antiinflammatory medication after vomiting during the third set of a difficult third-round match against Andreas Vinciguerra, an impressive Swedish wild card. The American No 2 seed has been taking medicine for a herniated disc in his lower back.
Rusedski, who started the season late after surgery to his right foot, is working on the rhythm of his mighty serve, which will need to be smoother if the British No 2 is to improve his record of one win in eight matches against Sampras.
Asked if there was a danger of thinking too much about his serving action while making a delivery, Rusedski said: "I just expect it to be there. You step in your car, you drive. You don't really think about it. That's what's happening."
He knows where his technique is going wrong. "I'm tossing the ball a little too far in front. My toss isn't consistent. My body, I'm starting a little bit up and down, throwing myself off balance. When I'm in balance, taking my time and hitting smooth, it's pretty effective."
Rusedski's win against Sampras came in the final of the Paris Indoor Championships in 1998, the most important tournament Rusedski has won. Their last meeting was in the opening round in Scottsdale, Arizona, three weeks ago, Sampras winning, 6-3, 6-4.
"The first one who breaks down on their serve is the one who's going to lose," Rusedski, the No 17 seed, said. "With Pete, you kind of know where he's going, but he does it so well. It's [a matter of] just trying to keep the pressure on him."
Sampras, relieved to advance from the Vinciguerra match, said: "Greg serves that big that he can overwhelm you with his power. But the conditions here aren't that fast. I'm going to have some time to get hold of his serve and make him play. He's one of the better serve-and-volleyers we have in the game. He won't be easy to beat."
Results from the $5.725 million Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Florida:
Women's Singles Fourth Round
(1) Martina Hingis (Swit) def. Kim Clijsters (Bel) 6-0, 6-4. (2) Lindsay Davenport (US) def. (15) Elena Likhovtseva (Rus) 6-4, 6-3. (13) Jennifer Capriati (US) def. (5) Serena Williams (US) 7-6 (2), 1-6, 6-3. Amanda Coetzer (SA) def. (6) Conchita Martinez (Sp) 6-1, 6-2. (7) Monica Seles (US) def. (9) Anna Kournikova (Rus) 6-1, 3-6, 6-0. (12) Sandrine Testud (Fr) def. Elena Dementieva (Rus) 5-7, 6-4, 6-4. Amy Frazier (US) def. Nathalie Dechy (Fr) 6-3, 7-5. Nadejda Petrova (Rus) def. Sabine Appelmans (Bel) 6-3, 6-2.
Men's Singles Third Round
(1) Andre Agassi (US) def. Andre Pavel (Rom) 6-4, 6-3. (6) Gustavo Kuerten (Br) def. Goran Ivanisevic (Cro) 7-6 (4), 6-3. (8) Marcelo Rios (Chile) def. Nicolas Escude (Fr) 6-2, 3-6, 6-1. (9) Nicolas Lapentti (Ecu) def. Felix Mantilla (Sp) 5-7, 6-1, 6-1. (10) Tim Henman (GB) def. Mariano Zabaleta (Arg) 6-3, 6-3. Mark Philippoussis (Aus) def. (11) Cedric Pioline (Fr) 6-4, 7-6 (3). Dominik Hrbaty (Slovak) def. Michel Kratochvil (Swit) 7-6 (2), 7-6 (8). Wayne Ferreira (SA) def. Richard Fromberg (Aus) 6-3, 6-4.
Women's Doubles Second Round
Kimberly Po (US) and Anne-Gaelle Sidot (Fr) def. Yayuk Basuki (Indon) and Tamarine Tanasugarn (Thai) 6-4, 7-5. Holly Parkinson and Brie Rippner (US) def. Cara Black (Zim) and Irina Selyutina (Kazak) 3-6, 7-5, 6-1. Virginia Ruano Pascual (Sp) and Paola Suarez (Arg) def. Tathiana Garbin (It) and Katalin Marosi (Hun) 6-1, 6-4. Silvia Farina (It) and Karina Habsudova (Slovak) def. Irina Spirlea (Rom) and Caroline Vis (Neth) 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (1). Liezel Horn (SA) and Laura Montalvo (Arg) def. Annabel Ellwood and Lisa McShea (Aus) 6-1, 3-6, 6-1. Alexandra Fusai and Nathalie Tauziat (Fr) def. Karin Kschwendt (Aut) and Sandra Nacuk (Yug) 6-0, 6-1. Julie Halard-Decugis (Fr) and Ai Sugiyama (Japan) def. Els Callens (Bel) and Sonya Jeyaseelan (Can) 7-5, 7-6 (7). Anke Huber (Ger) and Barbara Schett (Aut) def. Catherine Barclay (Aus) and Larisa Neiland (Lat) 6-2, 6-0. Amanda Coetzer (SA) and Lori McNeil (US) def. Chanda Rubin (US) and Sandrine Testud (Fr) walkover. Laurence Courtois (Bel) and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (Sp) def. Amy Frazier and Katie Schlukebir (US) 6-4, 6-1. Mary Pierce (Fr) and Lisa Raymond (US) def. Kristie Boogert and Miriam Oremans (Neth) 2-6, 6-3, 6-2. Asa Carlsson (Swe) and Emilie Loit (Fr) def. Mirjana Lucic (Cro) and Alexandra Stevenson (US) 7-6 (1), 4-6, 7-5. Nicole Arendt (US) and Manon Bollegraf (Neth) def. Tina Krizan and Katarina Srebotnik (Slov) 2-6, 7-6 (3), 6-1. Elena Likhovtseva (Rus) and Corina Morariu (US) def. Jelena Kostanic Cro) and Tina Pisnik (Slov) 6-2, 6-1.
Men's Doubles Second Round
David Adams and John-Laffnie de Jager (SA) def. Tomas Carbonell (Sp) and Eric Taino (US) 7-5, 6-4. Piet Norval (SA) and Kevin Ullyett (Zim) def. Mariano Hood and Sebastian Prieto (Arg) 6-3, 3-6, 7-5. Jonas Bjorkman (Swe) and Byron Black (Zim) def. Simon Aspelin and Johan Landsberg (Swe) 6-3, 6-4. Ellis Ferreira (SA) and Rick Leach (US) def. Jaime Oncins (Bra) and Daniel Orsanic (Arg) 6-0, 6-1. Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde (Aus) def. Donald Johnson (US) and Cyril Suk (Cz Rep) 6-4, 6-3. Patrick Galbraith and Brian MacPhie (US) def. David Prinosil, Germany, and Mikael Tillstrom (Swe) 6-4, 6-1. Jiri Novak and David Rikl (Cz Rep) def. James Blake and Thomas Blake (US) 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-3. Massimo Bertolini and Cristian Brandi (It) def. Wayne Black (Zim) and Andrew Kratzmann (Aus) 6-4, 6-4. Jan-Michael Gambill and Scott Humphries (US) def. David Macpherson (Aus) and Jeff Tarango (US) 7-6 (5), 6-4. Paul Haarhuis (Neth) and Sandon Stolle (Aus) def. Paul Goldstein and Chris Woodruff (US) 6-4, 1-6, 6-2. Alex O'Brien and Jared Palmer (US) def. Roger Federer (Swit) and Andreas Vinciguerra (Swe) 6-4, 6-2.Reuse content