For the first time since 1992, Jennifer Capriati is a factor at the U.S. Open. A potential matchup Monday with Monica Seles would put Capriati back in the spotlight for her tennis, rather than for a self-destructive stretch that led her away from top-level competition.
"It's really fun to play," Capriati said after upsetting 11th-seeded Nathalie Tauziat today.
Asked how she has managed to right herself after five unproductive tennis years, she said: "It really scared the hell out of me. I just thought, `God, what if that's it?' Then I just thought, `How ridiculous. Why not play? You have the power in you. Just do it, if you want.' "
Now 23, Capriati said she is "stronger, wiser out there on the court. More than anything, just bigger and stronger, more aggressive. Maybe I have a little more variety. . . . "
She also feels she is mentally tougher than in the past, as evidenced by winning the third set over a seeded player.
"Before, I would have just lost the third set, I think. Now, I was more determined to fight back and not give up. Regroup, and get it back. Maybe before I didn't have the confidence to do that."
What caused the change of attitude? "I just got tired of losing, sick of losing, sick of not reaching my full potential. . . . Just more determination, feeling better about myself. A bunch of things."
Team of American Might
When captain Billie Jean King selected her Fed Cup team that will represent the United States against Russia in Stanford, Calif., Sept. 18-19, she loaded up. Selected were four of the top six ranked women in the world: No. 2 Lindsay Davenport, No. 3 Venus Williams, No. 4 Monica Seles and No. 6 Serena Williams.
"The fact that the four highest ranked women in the country have committed to play Fed Cup speaks highly about the state of the women's game in America," King said. "The depth of talent among the U.S. women is great. Lindsay, Venus, Monica and Serena will be excellent representatives for the strong group of American women tennis players."
There's No Place Like Queens, N.Y.
Davenport, the defending champion, needed only 46 minutes to roll past Amy Frazier and said she is feeling more at home at the U.S. Tennis Center.
"I really love this court," she said of the Arthur Ashe Stadium surface. "I think after the last two years now, I know where the wind goes and how quick [the surface] is. I just love playing here. Once I broke through and got to the semis here [in 1997], and won it last year, I've felt really comfortable playing here."
Thoughts With Mother
Kim Clijsters, who lost a thrilling three-setter to Serena Williams, has more on her mind than tennis, even if this is a Grand Slam event. The 16-year old Belgian, the youngest woman in the tournament, has a serious problem at home. Belgian journalists report that her 35-year-old mother is seriously ill, battling liver cancer. . . .
Justin Gimelstob didn't endear himself to the New York fans with quirky behavior during his four-set loss to Andre Agassi. At one point, he asked the chair umpire if the blimp hovering overhead could be moved.