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Archive for Sunday, January 27, 2002

Capriati makes history

Australian Open rally breaks record for women’s Grand Slam tournament

January 27, 2002

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— Few people saw what might have been one of the key moments of Jennifer Capriati's stunning comeback victory over Martina Hingis for the Australian Open title.

After Capriati rebounded from a 4-0 deficit in the second set, saving four match points in the process, the players went to the training room for a 10-minute break from the 95-degree heat.

"We both were lying there, just packed with ice. It would have been the perfect sight," Hingis said.

Capriati said she was too tired to talk or change clothes, but felt more confident of winning.

Hingis, meanwhile, was thinking: "No way I've got to go back out there again."

She did, but could win only two more games.

Capriati triumphed 4-6, 7-6 (7), 6-2 Saturday for her second straight Australian Open title and third championship in the last five Grand Slam events.

A year ago, the Australian Open was the site of Capriati's breakthrough in a comeback that was years in the making.

On Saturday, she completed a record comeback for a women's Grand Slam tournament final by saving those four match points en route to victory.

The old record stood for more than 100 years.

In 1889, Blanche Bingley Hillyard saved three match points and beat Lena Rice 4-6, 8-6, 6-4 at Wimbledon. The last time even one was saved came at the 1962 French Open final, when Margaret Court beat Lesley Turner.

A year ago, Capriati beat Hingis 6-3, 6-4 for her first Grand Slam tournament championship.

Hingis now has lost three straight Australian Open finals. Her last Grand Slam title came here in 1999.

She had one match point at 5-3 in the second set, two more at 6-5, and another at 7-6 in the tiebreaker. A backhand winner by Capriati and three forehands sent long by Hingis erased them.

The 25-year-old Capriati said her approach to each was "just to really go for it, and it paid off."

Hingis kicked herself later for not doing the same thing.

"I was hoping she was going to make a mistake," she said. "Next time I probably should take charge of it and just try to do something myself, but mentally and physically I wasn't up to it."

Leading 2-1 in the third set, "I didn't really believe in it any more," she added. "I knew I probably wouldn't last if I really needed to, so I just tried to walk through it."

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