At 13, Jennifer Capriati won Roland Garros and the girls’ US Open, and the tennis world knew she had a true phenomenon in the game. Big sponsors know they have no time to waste and are making the teenager a millionaire before she even plays her first pro tournament. We’re talking five million dollars!
The father of the young tennis player Stefano Capriati is a combinatory man with many connections. Under WTA rules, women’s professional debuts are possible after the age of 14 (she is now 18), but Stefano made a change that allows Jennifer and all other young players to play their first professional tournament in the final month before they turn 14. This amendment would later become known as the “Capriati Rule”.
The golden years
Even after her first major tournament, Jennifer appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. He reached the final and lost to the Argentinian sex symbol Gabriela Sabatini. On the way to the final battle, Capriati swept three representatives of the top 20 of the world rankings.
A few months later in San Juan, she won her first title, and in the meantime she reached another final – at the Family Circle Cup in Hilton Head, where she lost to Martina Navratilova. Thus, Jennifer ends the season ranked eighth in the world and goes down in history as the youngest semi-finalist at Roland Garros.
Her second season was even more successful and she reached the top 4 at Wimbledon and the US Open, and on the way to the semi-finals of the “sacred grass” she got back at Martina Navratilova for the defeat in Hilton Head. The icing on the cake was the Olympic title in 1992, which she won after defeating the legendary Steffi Graf in the final.
One mistake away from irreparable tragedy
After the phenomenal successes of the teenager, the news in 1993 that she was ending her career came like a bolt from the blue. But when all the details surface, things start to make sense.
The first alarm was a store theft in Tampa.
The young star tries on different pieces of jewelry and leaves with some of them on her. The tennis player explains that she stopped at many things and forgot to take them off. However, her explanation was not the most convincing and she was charged. Jennifer pays a fine and is sent to a psychiatric clinic for treatment for several weeks.
This incident is just the beginning of a spiral of life slips for the tennis prodigy.
Just six months after the theft, Capriati found herself involved in a drug deal. Her room at the Miami motel where she lives is searched by police looking for a runaway girl. The uniforms come across the tennis player and several other youths who are smoking marijuana. While the police are still dealing with them, a runaway girl appears and the man with her smokes crack. This time, Capriati was sent to a rehabilitation center for a month.
The New York Times wrote a headline about the incident: “One error away from irreparable tragedy,” and the Chicago Sun-Times summarized that Capriati was “the perfect example of a sports prodigy burned out by the enormous pressure.”
“I was down and sad and I felt guilty. I was ready to give all my money for the chance to be with someone who loved me, not what I had. Everything that was going on in my head – tennis, my life, family, coaches, friends – everything made me miserable. I didn’t get out of bed for days. I hated everything and everyone and I was surrounded by complete darkness. In the mirror I saw a distorted self – terrible, fat … I wanted to kill myself,” says Capriati .
As the media trumpets her retirement, her father explains that his daughter just needs time. “She’s checking on me and her mom and her friends and wants to see how we’ll react if she stops playing tennis,” Stefano Capriati told The New York Times.
“The way she was pushed to the top from the beginning cost Jennifer too much. She didn’t have a normal childhood. I look at her and it makes me very sad. Everyone abandoned her – managers, journalists, players, myself included – explains Chris Evert. “It’s a terrible ordeal – to receive so much attention, success, adrenaline and enthusiasm at such a tender age. And then to have the whole world suddenly slip out from under one little girl’s feet in just a split second. Of course she was depressed. People , who had been telling her how great she was for so long, patting her on the back, suddenly turned to the next rising star.”
Despite the huge disappointments she faced, Jennifer found strength and returned to the court after a year and a half. At first, she is insecure and stiff, and there is no memory of her previous game. However, Capriati proves to herself and others that if you want something badly enough, nothing can stop you from achieving it. And so – at the beginning of the new millennium – he won three Grand Slam titles and climbed to the first position in the ranking. Jennifer is a world sensation!
But in 2010, headlines with her name and “drugs” appeared again. She has now definitively finished her professional career, but apparently cannot deal with the traumas of her childhood and the former tennis player was taken to hospital after taking an overdose. The official version is that she overdosed on the pills prescribed by her doctor, but barely. Everyone is convinced that it is about drugs.
Unfortunately, this story is not the last either. Three years later, Jennifer reminds of herself, attacking her ex-boyfriend Ivan Brennan in a gym. A report was filed and the former champion was arrested and sentenced to community service and sent to anger management classes.
A year after the attack, it occurred to her to return to tennis. At 38!
He starts posting pictures on social networks of how he works out, but everything remains just an unrealized idea.
The former world No.1 has been out of trouble for almost a decade now, but she’s a ticking time bomb that could always go off. It’s just that the one-time tennis prodigy couldn’t handle the fame, money and over-the-top expectations that ruined her life.