Thirteen years ago, when Jennifer Capriati made her first U.S. Open semifinal at age 15, she appeared headed for a long run of titles in her home Grand Slam. Friday afternoon, after a riveting, wind-swept 6-0, 2-6, 7-6 (7-5) loss to Elena Dementieva in Arthur Ashe Stadium, Capriati was dealing with failing for the fourth time in the Open semis.
"The whole time, I had confidence in myself that I thought I was gonna win," Capriati said. "I felt like, when I came back . . . I felt like I had the edge. So, you know, it was just a matter of a few points here and there.
"I could think back all I want, but it doesn't change the reality."
Less than three hours before Capriati's loss, the other American in the semifinals also was beaten by a young Russian. No. 9 Svetlana Kuznetsova ended No. 5 Lindsay Davenport's bid for both the Open title and the No. 1 ranking, which she would have taken had she won here, with a 1-6, 6-2, 6-4 win that set up the year's second all-Russian Grand Slam final.
With Capriati, Davenport, Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick all losing on Thursday and Friday, the men's and women's finals will be played without a single American for the first time since 1988.
After being crushed in a 17-minute first set in which she won just five points, Capriati came back to take control of the second, evening the match as her rival's unconventional and unreliable serve began to falter in the wind.
"That's got to be the hardest conditions to play in," Capriati, the eighth seed, said. "You can tell, both of us were probably not able to play our tennis. She played the conditions better than me. She was smart with the wind."
The third set was an 86-minute epic that featured eight breaks of serve and a staggering 125 points. Rallies seemed endless -- one lasted 49 strokes -- and sixth-seeded Dementieva forced the tiebreak by breaking Capriati's serve at 6-5.
Capriati ran down Dementieva's groundstrokes all afternoon but, finally, couldn't get to the Russian's final backhand down the line that ended it. The match was so draining, Dementieva and doubles partner Ai Sugiyama defaulted from their early evening match because of the Russian's exhaustion.
Overcoming her streaky serve -- which left her racket at speeds ranging from 59 to 108 mph -- Dementieva took advantage of Capriati's inability to put the match away. Capriati had ample opportunities to take control, but couldn't convert of 13 of her 19 break point chances.
It was Dementieva's second trip to the U.S. Open semis, and this time she broke through where Capriati has been stymied. In her previous semifinal, in 2000, she lost to Davenport.
"I feel more confidence now," Dementieva said. "I feel like in that time I did so good and I didn't really, I didn't understand what I did. Right now, it just feels like I'm doing some great things, and I deserve to be in the final now."
Davenport, meantime, was hobbled by a hip flexor strain that clearly limited her range of motion and helped end her 22-match winning streak.
"I'm fine with losing, it's not the losing part," Davenport said. "You just wish that I had lost because I was terrible or I didn't play well and she played great. . . . I'm just disappointed that I didn't get the opportunity to either win or lose at 100 percent."
Davenport seemed to have the distinct edge in the first set, but the strain prevented her from moving from side to side in the second and third sets, enabling Kuznetsova to increase her number of winners in each frame.
Even with the injury getting worse -- she took a timeout to get her left upper thigh re-taped after the second set -- Davenport went up a break in the third and led 3-0. Kuznetsova didn't let up, though, and broke back in the fifth game and again in the ninth.
With the pain, Davenport couldn't put her usual pace on the ball and Kuznetsova pounced.
"Someone outplays me, I can handle that," Davenport said. "A little bummed that I didn't even give myself a chance to be outplayed. So that's tough."
Open Notes: With the ousters of Davenport and Agassi, questions of retirement began almost as soon as they left the court.
Neither gave any indication as to when they would leave the game, especially after the level of tennis they have exhibited during the summer season.
Davenport won four tournaments during an incredible streak that left her just two wins shy of the top women's ranking. Agassi took the title in Cincinnati and reached the quarterfinal of the U.S. Open.
"Some days I'd like to [retire]; other days, I don't want to," Davenport said. "I mean, it would be tough to walk away knowing that, 'Oh, I still could have won a Slam,' or 'I was still at the top. I was ranked two, three or whatever.' That probably makes it a bit more challenging of a decision."
The 34-year-old Agassi also said that his results and ability would dictate how long he would stay in the game.
"I certainly want to be able to assess my level of play, and at some point my level of play will dictate my decisions," he said. "But, as of right now, I'm trying to win tournaments, and I believe that with that focus, I can still do it."