Capra makes it two in row
Friday, September 3, 2010
FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y. - The first disappointment of Beatrice Capra's 2010 U.S. Open experience came Saturday, when she missed seeing the Jonas Brothers (her secret obsession the past two years) perform at Arthur Ashe Kids' Day.
Since then, everything else about her debut in the tournament's main draw, at 18, has been a dream - walking on the red carpet as a bona-fide guest at the annual Players' Party; getting to use the players' locker room along with her idols Maria Sharapova and Kim Clijsters; attending a mentoring session with Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and Andrea Jaeger; making eye contact with Spain's Feliciano Lopez, who has made many a female fan swoon.
And that's not even talking about all that has happened on court, where Capra's impressive romp continued Thursday with a gutsy 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 upset of 18th seed Aravane Rezai as a grandstand full of supporters chanted the name of her home town.
With that, Capra, an Ellicott City native - as well as the youngest, lowest-ranked (371st in the world) and only amateur player remaining in the women's singles draw - advanced to the U.S. Open's third round, where she'll face Sharapova, who crushed Iveta Benesova, 6-1, 6-2.
"I'd have to say that was probably one of the best moments of my life," Capra said after Thursday's victory, her first against a top-20 player. "This whole experience has been unreal."
In many respects, Capra, whose game was honed at the Junior Champions Tennis Center in College Park before she relocated to the Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, Fla., last year, is doing a better job of taking her improbable success in stride than the press corps that's chronicling it.
Pam Shriver, the last tennis player of note to come from Maryland and a longtime family friend, was thrilled about Capra's latest result and, along with fellow commentator Mary Carillo, successfully lobbied for footage to open the ESPN2 broadcast.
"It was the dramatic moment of the first few hours of the Open today," said Shriver, who played junior tennis against Capra's mother, Laurie, a former all-American at South Florida. "I was proud from an ESPN standpoint; I was proud from a Baltimore standpoint!"
Nearly the entire room of reporters attending Capra's post-match interview Thursday (her first in the USTA National Tennis Center's main auditorium, reserved for the sport's big names and prominent victors) followed her out the door, hungry for more details, even as top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki was walking in.
Most were Americans in pursuit of the 18-year-old who may prove the country's next great tennis hope. One year ago that player was 17-year-old Melanie Oudin of Marietta, Ga., who reached the U.S. Open's quarterfinals, but she lost Wednesday. And the hunger to identify a successor to the Williams sisters, who are 30 and 28, respectively, is almost palpable.
It wasn't just Americans who clamored for Capra's life story.
The Italian press, seizing on her last name, was eager to claim her, too. Where were her parents from, they wanted to know. Had she ever been to Monza? Did she speak Italian? Did she have an Italian passport?