MELBOURNE, Australia -- Dazed with disbelief by her
improbable achievement, Jennifer Capriati wore a grin bigger than
the Outback as she hoisted a Grand Slam championship trophy over
her head for the first time.
The crowd roared. Her father beamed. Her comeback was complete.
A heavy underdog and a sentimental favorite, Capriati upset
top-seeded Martina Hingis 6-4, 6-3 on Saturday to win the
It was the most captivating moment in a tumultuous career for
Capriati, the former child prodigy who left the women's tour in the
mid-1990s because of drug and personal problems.
Capriati, 24, entered the tournament seeded 12th and might be
the most unlikely women's major champion since the Open era began
in 1968. She beat defending champion Lindsay Davenport and
four-time champ Monica Seles en route to the final, then outplayed
Hingis from the start.
When Capriati closed out the victory by slamming a backhand
return winner on the first match point, she hopped up and down,
grinned and cried with joy.
"I just couldn't believe it," she said. "I got the chills. I
just thought, `Wow, the moment has finally come. Now I can enjoy
|Jennifer Capriati celebrates her victory against top seed Martina Hingis in the women's singles final at the Australian Open on Saturday.|
Capriati shook hands with Hingis, thrust her fists in the air
and trotted over to her father and coach, Stefano. He happily
rubbed her right arm -- the one that had just delivered a Grand Slam
title. Then she went to her changeover chair and phoned her brother
back home in Florida.
"Who would've thought I would have ever made it here after so
much has happened?" Capriati told a supportive center-court crowd
during the trophy ceremony. "Dreams do come true if you keep
believing in yourself. Anything can happen."
Capriati, whose troubles as a teen-ager made international
headlines, was 17 when she dropped off the tour for 2½ years
following the 1993 U.S. Open. She went five years without winning a
Grand Slam match.
But those days were a distant memory Sunday afternoon for
Capriati and her family.
Said her beaming father: "I'm very proud. I've always felt
proud of Jennifer."
On a gorgeous, cloudless day, Capriati was as perfect as the
weather at the outset, racing to a 4-0 lead in just 12 minutes. She
slugged boldly from the baseline but was accurate, too, playing 25
points before she hit a shot long.
"I thought, `Why be nervous? She has everything to lose. Just
go for it,"' Capriati said.
Her newfound fitness was often evident. She repeatedly ran down
Hingis' drop shots, including on the final point of the first set,
when she raced forward and bunted a backhand winner into the
The crowd was clearly on Capriati's side, with fans shouting out
encouragement to her between points. Stefano Capriati watched
nervously from under a red, white and blue USA hat, grinning and
shaking his fist when his daughter hit a winner.
By the second set, Hingis' frustration was increasingly evident.
In the second game, after barely ticking Capriati's serve, Hingis
hurled her racket to the court and kicked it in anger.
Hingis double-faulted on break point to fall behind 3-2, and
Capriati's serve -- her downfall in the past -- held up the rest of
"It's a Grand Slam final," she said. "I wasn't going to let
my lead go."
Hingis was bidding for her sixth Grand Slam title but her first
since winning the 1999 Australian Open. After beating Serena and
Venus Williams in the same tournament for the first time, she was a
big favorite in the final.
"People said, `You won it already,' but I didn't say that,"
Hingis said. "I knew I had to beat a great player out there."
The defeat was only the second for Hingis in 35 matches at
Melbourne Park since 1997.
"There are worse disasters in life than what happened to me
today," Hingis said. "I can still smile. I don't think I did
anything wrong. The way she played, she didn't give me too many
Capriati beat Hingis for the first time in their six meetings.
"I hope to be in many more finals with you," Capriati told
Hingis during the trophy ceremony. "You've had lots of times here,
and I'm glad I finally got to be in one."
Capriati ranks with the most improbable of major champions. The
only unseeded women's champion in the Open era was Chris O'Neil,
who won the Australian Open in 1978, when many top players skipped
the tournament. The lowest seeded women's champ previously was Iva
Majoli, who won the 1997 French Open when seeded ninth.
Capriati will climb to seventh in next week's rankings, the
first time she has been in the top 10 since Jan. 16, 1994, when she
For the first time since 1995, the tournament is awarding equal
prize money to men and women. Capriati received $473,385, and
Hingis got $236,693.
In the men's doubles final, Todd Woodbridge earned his 12th
Grand Slam doubles title when he teamed with Sweden's Jonas
Bjorkman to beat Bryon Black and David Prinosil 6-1, 7-5, 6-4, 6-4.
It was Woodbridge's first Grand Slam title without longtime
partner Mark Woodforde, who retired last year.
The title was Bjorkman's third Australian Open doubles title in
four years -- each with a different partner.
Lives: Wesley Chapel, Fla.
Plays: Right-handed, double-handed backhand
Grand Slam titles: 2001 Aussie Open
Australian Open record: 2001-final, 2000-semifinals, 1999-second round,
1997-first round, 1993-quarterfinals, 1992-quarterfinals
How Capriati got there:
First: Henrieta Nagyova 4-6, 6-2, 7-5
Second: Miriam Oremans 6-0, 6-2
Third: Virginia Ruano Pascual 6-0, 6-2
Fourth: Marta Marrero 7-5, 6-1
Quarters: Monica Seles 5-7, 6-4, 6-3
Semis: Lindsay Davenport 6-3, 6-4
Final: Martina Hingis 6-4, 6-3
Worn-down Hingis blames schedule for loss
New partner, no problem: Woodbridge wins doubles final
Williamses don't leave empty-handed, win doubles
Agassi a heavy favorite in Australian Open final
Washington: Final pick
Clement saves two match points, advances to final
Judge rules Hingis should testify at trial of alleged stalker