Sharapova ushers Capra right out of the U.S. Open

Beatrice Capra won two matches at the U.S. Open before being routed by Maria Sharapova, above.
Beatrice Capra won two matches at the U.S. Open before being routed by Maria Sharapova, above. (Paul J. Bereswill)
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By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 5, 2010

FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y. - Maria Sharapova is notorious for her ear-piercing shrieks on the tennis court, and it's a matter of debate whether they're an uncontrollable reflex or a weapon of intimidation.

As it turned out, Sharapova's caterwauling was the least of Beatrice Capra's concerns when the 18-year-old from Ellicott City took the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium, the world's biggest tennis venue, to face the former world No. 1 Saturday for a spot in the fourth round of the U.S. Open.

There were devilish winds that gusted at 32 mph - so fierce they blew the neon-yellow visor off Capra's head and halted play four times as towels, napkins, food wrappers and anything not anchored down skittered across the court.

There was the cavernous setting, with its 23,000 seats, disorienting dimensions and hallowed history. There was the live TV coverage on CBS.

And there was all that propelled Sharapova to three Grand Slam titles and the No. 1 ranking by age 20 - her vaunted power, iron will and utter ruthlessness on court.

The result: A 6-0, 6-0 victory for Sharapova, now 23, who'll next face top seed Caroline Wozniacki for a spot in the quarterfinals, and an invaluable lesson for Capra, who did a remarkable job putting the experience of the past week in perspective despite a score line that could have been devastating.

"It's nothing but positives for me," said Capra, the youngest and lowest-ranked player (371st) to advance to the third round, as well as the only amateur. "I beat a top-20 player in the world [Aravane Rezai] in the second round. I had a really good first round. I mean, playing against Maria in Arthur Ashe-yeah, I'd like to do better. But that was amazing."

The contours of the match - Capra's pluck against Sharapova's savvy - were reflected in the songs each chose for her on-court introduction. Capra went with Eminem's "I'm Not Afraid"; Sharapova, U2's "Mysterious Ways."

Sharapova's experience was evident at the outset, with the 2006 U.S. Open champion choosing to receive serve in the opening game given the tricky conditions and likelihood that Capra would need time to settle her nerves.

Sharapova broke in an error-strewn game by both. And on her own serve, she lowered her toss to add a slight cushion for error, unsure how far the wind would carry the ball.

Before Tuesday, Capra had never faced a ranked player nor qualified for the main draw of a major. But she won two rounds against tour veterans primarily on strong defense and mental resolve.

That wasn't enough against Sharapova's well-placed blasts and on-court smarts.

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