|Wednesday, September 8
|NEW YORK -- Jennifer Capriati spoke of her teenage
rebellion and confusion as she sought to close the door on her
past. Yet she revealed how fragile she remains, once again leaving the U.S.
Open in tears.
An hour after losing to Monica Seles 6-4, 6-3 in the fourth
round Monday, Capriati began a news conference by reading a
statement she wrote before the tournament and saved until she was
"I know there is much mystery, much question to what happened,
and I must also say many lies," Capriati, 23, said of the
collapse of her career in 1993, her subsequent arrests on
shoplifting and drug possession charges, and her rehabilitation.
"Yes, I made mistakes by rebelling, by acting out in confused
ways," she said, taking deep breaths as she read. "But it was all
due to the fact I was very young and I was experiencing my
adolescence. Most of you know how hard that can be. When you do it
in front of the world, it is even harder."
She spoke of taking a different path than other players,
learning a lot about herself and life along the way.
"If I knew there would be so much pain in learning life's
lessons," she said, "I would have been hesitant to take the path
that I took. It's the only thing I do regret.
"Let me say that the path I did take for a brief period of my
life was not of reckless drug use, hurting others, but it was a
path of quiet rebellion, of a little experimentation of a darker
side of my confusion in a confusing world, lost in the midst of
finding my identity.
"I made mistakes, and yes, I am to blame, and no one else. I am
sorry to my loved ones that I humiliated and embarrassed. And I'm
sorry to my fans who feel I let them down. I'm sorry to myself for
causing such pain."
Capriati said she has put much of her past behind her and feels
she's moving in the right direction as she starts a new chapter in
her life. She added that this would be the last time she speaks
about the past, and asked the media to respect her wishes to stay
away from the subject.
She said the statement was something she had been wanting to
write for a long time, and that this felt like the right moment.
She had told her father about it -- Stefano Capriati sat in the
interview room listening to her -- but hadn't told her mother, who
is divorced from her father.
Then in response to questions about her statement, Capriati said
she wrote it because she was "tired of all the questions" about
her past, "all the mystery. Just once and for all, I wanted to get
it over with."
Yet, Capriati never really clarified the events that led to her
arrests or what happened to her afterward. The "mystery" remains
untold, and Capriati said she's still not ready to talk about it
Told that other athletes have experienced a sense of relief
sometimes after talking openly about their problems, Capriati said
she thought that's what reading her statement would do for her and
that she wanted to make sure she explained herself the right way.
"I just really didn't know how to handle it, just how to go
about saying it, afraid I was going to say something wrong," she
said. "I didn't know really what to say that was just going to be
right or I wasn't going to get in trouble. ... Maybe that's why
I've played with a lot of anxiety."
Until that point in the long news conference, Capriati kept her
composure, talking about her statement, her "self-inflicted"
problems, the match with Seles.
Then she was asked, "Do you still see the media as your
adversary?" Capriati hesitated. She has been the subject of mostly
sympathetic stories her entire career, despite her troubles, yet
she remains wary of the media.
"I'm going to start crying. It's nothing bad, it's just ..."
Capriati broke off and began sobbing uncontrollably.
"It's just a little overwhelming, that's all," she said.
A WTA Tour representative, Jim Fuhse, asked her if she wanted to stop. Capriati shook her head.
"It needs to be done," she said.
"We can stop if you want to," Fuhse said.
"I just wish I didn't have to talk about this stuff all the
time," Capriati said, sobbing more heavily.
Fuhse led her away, and her father came over to put his arms
around her. Outside the interview room, a reporter who has long
known her also tried comforting Capriati as she kept crying.
Finally, after a few minutes, Capriati made her way down the hall
to the locker room and away from the Open.
She had left tournaments in tears before -- the U.S. Open in 1992
after losing in the third round, the Australian Open in 1993 after
losing in the quarters, among others. She spoke now of being
stronger than in those days, being able to keep things in
perspective, yet she remains in some ways as fragile as ever.
Capriati loses to Seles, tries to put past behind her
Jennifer Capriati reads a statement to the press.
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