Jennifer Capriati

By Bruce Schoenfeld, Tennis Magazine (November/December 2004)

At 28, Jennifer Capriati knows her days are numbered. Following a dramatic but disappointing run to the US Open semifinals, her hopes of another major victory now rest on the 2005 Australian Open.

Jennifer Capriati had been crying. Her red-rimmed eyes gave her away as she stepped into the interview room in Arthur Ashe stadium after her semifinal loss to Elena Dementieva at the US Open. Usually so calm, so cautious, so media-trained, she couldn’t help but offer a glimpse into her soul.

Who could blame her? It was all so unfair. She’d fought so hard against Serena Williams in the quarterfinals, doing what she had to do to win, only to have it undermined by that silly controversy about the umpire’s overrule. For two days, it was all she saw on television, the ball landing near the line and Serena striding toward the chair. Didn’t they have anything else to talk about? Lying in bed at night, she replayed the point over and over, like a bad song she couldn’t get out of her head. Then, against Dementieva, she had found herself a game away from finally reaching a US Open final after all these years. And wouldn’t you know it? The wind was swirling, the sun was in her eyes, and suddenly she was out of the Open again, facing a press conference like so many others.

She’d squandered her fist opportunity, in 1991, as a 15-year-old, losing a memorable semifinal match to Monica Seles in a third-set tiebreaker that would haunt Capriati for years. A decade later, in 2001, she reached another semifinal, this time losing to Venus Williams in straight sets. And then last year she’d served for the match in the semis against Justine Henin-Hardenne but couldn’t close it out. This year’s semifinal against Dementieva, who was floating seves of 60 mph and slower across the net, presented her best chance, and possibly her last.

“I was just thinking, Play the wind the best you can,” she murmured. “I guess I waited for her maybe to make a few more errors. I mean, I can’t really…” She trailed off. “I don’t know.”

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At 21, Andy Roddick was the hottest player in the game, having won four of his previous six tournaments. No one in the world was performing with more confidence, intensity and unbridled.
But the number 4 seed Roddick had a serious problem in his semifinal against David Nalbandian. Roddick was down match point at 5-6 in a third set tiebreak. Roddick possessed the biggest serve in the game and he released a crackling 138mph serve winner to Nalbandian’s backhand and carved-out a five sets comeback victory 6-7 3-6 7-6 6-1 6-3, for a place in his first Grand Slam final.

American fans had eagerly anticipated a Agassi-Roddick showdown in final, but the top-seeded Agassi faced reigning French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero and couldn’t disrupt his adversary’s unerring ground game, bowing in four sets. That set the stage for Roddick to methodically serve his way past the Spaniard to capture his first major.

Since then, he has never passed the quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows.