Capriati suffers first-round shocker
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Jennifer Capriati became the first defending women's champion in the Open era to lose in the first round of the Australian Open, tumbling out of the Grand Slam event Monday with a shocking loss to Marlene Weingartner.
Capriati, who won her first Grand Slam championship at Melbourne Park in 2001 and successfully defended the title last year, won the first set 6-2 and led 4-2 in the second.
But her German rival, ranked No. 98 at the end of 2002, rallied to take the second set 7-6 (6) and the third 6-4, with Capriati dumping a forehand into the net on match point.
"I felt I was getting a bit tired and she got on a roll. ... I felt the momentum swing," Capriati said. "Mentally and physically I wasn't strong enough, I guess."
The 26-year-old American said an operation to remove sun spots from both eyes in early November had limited her preparation. She lost in the second round in Sydney last week.
"I think (the eyes) are OK now," she said. "It's basically now trying to get back to feeling normal again.
"I had stitches in both eyes. For two weeks, basically, I was in the dark because I couldn't be in sunlight -- my eyes were too sensitive. I'm not trying to make excuses, that's for sure, but it had a lot to do with my preparation."
She had 10 double faults and 41 errors, while Weingartner had five double faults and 52 unforced errors.
"I think I deserved it. I played extremely well today," Weingartner said. "I didn't really think about winning. I tried to put her under pressure a lot ... I just stayed in the match and fought. That was the key."
It was 22-year-old Weingartner's first experience on center court in a Grand Slam tournament.
"This is special -- I hope to play a few more. I needed a little time to get into it (before) I started to play my game."
Second-seeded Venus Williams looked rusty, but advanced to the second round, beating Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 6-2.
Williams muddled around in her first few games, as though she was back at work after a long vacation.
After ending the match with an angled forehand volley on her fourth match point, she flashed a relieved smile and did a little pirouette, looking more as if she'd reached the second week of a Grand Slam than the second round.
She fell behind 0-3 because of some erratic shots, relying on a stronger serve to carry her against the 45th-ranked Kuznetsova. She and the 17-year-old Russian were nearly even in errors.
"I'm just a little rusty," Williams said. "I didn't expect to be 100 percent in this match, but in the next one I expect to be at least 150."
Venus hadn't played since limping out of her WTA Championships semifinal while trailing 5-0 against Kim Clijsters in November.
Williams' sister, Serena, will open on center court Tuesday against Emilie Loit of France. Serena is seeking a fourth consecutive major to compete her "Serena Slam," in which she would hold all four Grand Slam titles at once.
Serena missed a chance for a true Grand Slam -- all four majors in one calendar year -- when she twisted her ankle in a warmup tournament and missed last year's Australian Open. She went on to beat Venus in the finals of the French and U.S. Opens and Wimbledon.
Asked about beating Serena this time, Venus said, "I wouldn't exactly say that's my goal. My goal is to be my best. I guess if Serena wins a slam, then I'll be there congratulating her."
The sisters, on opposite sides of the draw, can only meet in the final.
Lindsay Davenport, seeded ninth a year after knee surgery, beat France's Camille Pin 6-2, 6-1. Davenport won the 2000 Australian Open.
Anna Kournikova, winless in Grand Slam singles play in two years, thrashed Slovakia's Henrieta Nagyova 6-1, 6-2 to earn a second-round match against fifth-seeded Justine Henin-Hardenne.
The Belgian, who beat Kournikova in the first round 12 months ago, opened with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over 17-year-old Swiss player Myriam Casanova.Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories
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Marlene Weingartner ousts two-time defending champion Jennifer Capriati.
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Defending champion Jennifer Capriati reacts to her first-round loss.
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