CAPRIATI PLANNING TO RETURN IN PARIS
Report in "Daily Telegraph"
By John Parsons
in Key Biscayne
JENNIFER CAPRIATI is back in training, refreshed and planning to
return to the lawn tennis tour in time for the French Open at the end of
May, her father, Stefano, claimed here last night.
No prodigal daughter will be offered a warmer welcome. The women's
tour, without Capriati for six months and Monica Seles for almost a
year, needs all the help it can get to restore competitive and
Even Steffi Graf shows signs of cracking under the strain of having to
shoulder the burden almost alone. She admitted she was "mentally
exhausted, tired of tennis and in need of a break" after losing her
first set of the year, yet still extending her unbeaten run to 32
matches, against Natalia Zvereva in the Lipton Championship final.
Graf will play as announced, in Hilton Head next week but said: "I
wouldn't play if I wasn't committed to do so. So far this year it's
been nothing but tennis, tennis, tennis for me."
Capriati's father offered the optimistic progress report on his daughter
after watching a lethargic and at times seemingly uninterested Graf
register a far from satisfying 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory. Graf made 35
unforced errors and the opening set was the first she had lost out of 55
"Jennifer finished her exams at school on Friday and is now looking
forward to returning to the circuit," said Mr Capriati. He was non-
committal about her prospects of playing at Wimbledon but added: "She
began practising two weeks ago and plans to be playing again, maybe in
time for the French Open or if not, certainly in June."
He is still angry at the way his daughter's problems were presented in
some sections of the British press. "We have received cuttings which
we've torn up and put straight into the garbage can."
There were calls for raising the minimum age for full-time
professional players after Capriati, 18, broke down with the pressures
of life on the tour and her GBP 1.5 million prize money from semi-
final appearances in the US Open and Wimbledon.
The once bubbly schoolgirl made a bright start to her professional
career at 13, finishing runner-up to Gabriela Sabatini in her first tour
event after the minimum 14 age limit was waived for her. But her
problems have mounted, culminating in a police caution for an alleged
shoplifting offence late last year. She has not played since a tearful
first-round defeat by Leila Meskhi at last year's US Open, but is still
ranked 15th in the world.
The public desire for something other than virtuoso performances from
Graf was emphasised when Zvereva, a gifted but too often complacent
performer, was given a standing ovation just for winning the opening set
on her fifth set point, and with help from the German.
Graf, too weary even to feel angry with herself at the mistakes she
was making, said of the partisan crowd: "I wonder what it have been like
had she won."
* Ellsworth Vines, the American who beat Britain's Bunny Austin to
become Wimbledon champion in 1932 and later became a professional
golfer, has died at his home in Palm Springs, California, aged 82.
Michael Duffy 16B Laurel Road