Capriati loses at Wimbledon

Published July 5, 2001 3:57PM (EDT)

Jennifer Capriati's Grand Slam hopes ended Thursday on a rainy Centre Court at Wimbledon.

Justine Henin, a 19-year-old from Belgium, charged back from a bad start to beat Capriati 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the semifinals.

Henin, a semifinalist at last month's French Open, battered Capriati with strong backhands and effective volleys on a day when showers stopped play briefly in the third set.

She'll meet defending champion Venus Williams or 1999 winner Lindsay Davenport in Saturday's final, her first shot at a Grand Slam singles title.

Capriati won the Australian Open on hardcourt and the French Open on clay. A championship on Wimbledon's grass would have given her the third of the four major titles, leaving only the U.S. Open starting in late August.

Only three women and two men have won all those tournaments in the same year. Steffi Graf did it most recently in 1988.

Henin made sure Capriati didn't do it this year.

Ranked ninth in the world, Henin overcame painful foot blisters and a late rain delay to become the first person from her country to reach a Wimbledon final.

Leading 5-2 in the third set, Henin just had to hold her serve to win. She took a quick 40-15 lead. That gave her two match points, and she lost the first one when she hit a forehand wide.

But her next serve was the last. The match ended and Henin exulted when Capriati hit a forehand from the baseline that sailed wide.

Henin flipped her racket in the air, clutched the top of her white cap with her hands and smiled broadly. Capriati, showing little emotion, shook hands with her conqueror at the net and quickly left with her tennis bag slung over her shoulder.

That scene seemed extremely unlikely when Capriati, ranked fourth, dominated the first set, winning in just 21 minutes.

She lost only four points in four service games lasting a total of eight minutes. She won by breaking Henin's serve in the last game as Henin double faulted, then hit a long forehand for the last two points.

Capriati seemed ready to take another big stride in a career sidetracked several years ago by a shoplifting arrest and a stay in a drug rehab center. But she also was the youngest player to win a Wimbledon match when she did it in 1990 at 14.

She even went ahead 2-1 in the second set.

Then Henin bounced back on a sore foot to seize the momentum.

There was a brief delay after the third game so she could be treated for a blister near her right big toe at courtside. Then she went back out and won nine of the next 11 games.

Henin tied the set by holding her serve, then broke Capriati's. But Capriati broke right back, making it 3-3.

Then Capriati wasted a game point with a double fault and followed that by hitting two balls into the net as Henin broke her again.

In the eighth game, Capriati came back from 40-15 to tie it. But Henin fought back again to take the next two points and the game.

Capriati prolonged the set to get to 5-4, then Henin served to even the match. She won the first two points but hit a forehand into the net. Then she won the next two points, forcing a third set.

That's when Henin really established her dominance, winning the first four games. As a light shower began, Capriati held her serve, losing just one point.

With Henin ahead 4-1, referee Alan Mills ordered the court covered. The players packed their bags and returned to the locker room. They returned to Centre Court 16 minutes later, and Henin needed just three games to complete her victory.

In Friday's men's matches, Andre Agassi meets Patrick Rafter in the semifinals for the third straight year while Tim Henman meets three-time runner-up Goran Ivanisevic for the other berth in Sunday's final. In the men's competition, Agassi beat Nicolas Escude 6-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in one of Wednesday's quarterfinals.

In the others, Rafter beat Thomas Enqvist 6-1, 6-3, 7-6 (5), Ivanisevic topped Marat Safin 7-6 (2), 7-5, 3-6, 7-6, and Henman beat Roger Federer, 19, dethroned seven-time champion Sampras two days earlier. But Henman, a 26-year-old Englishman surrounded by Union Jacks in the stands, beat Federer 7-5, 7-6 (6), 2-6, 7-6 (6).

Federer had eliminated seven-time champion Pete Sampras in the fourth round.

By Associated Press

MORE FROM Associated Press

Related Topics ------------------------------------------