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Capriati an inspiration

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Posted: Wednesday July 04, 2001 10:23 AM


Jennifer Capriati just keeps doing things that make me smile and sometimes even make me cry. She stared down crazy power, momentum shifts, time-outs, nerves and somehow beat back Serena Williams. She did what you have to do when you face a Williams sister -- weather the storm, throw your own punches and still be standing when the whole thing is over.

Capriati lost a set she should have won, won a set she should have lost, and watched disbelievingly and suspiciously, as all players tend to do now, when Serena called for a trainer to help soothe her queasy stomach. Then it was Capriati getting treated for a muscle pull and from then on the outcome of the match was a coin flip and either could take it or give it to the other.

It was sort of like watching Jennifer Capriati grow up. You could see the power and the will and the joy and the glorious talent, and you could see how fragile all that can look if the owner of those gifts doesn't know what to do with it all. But Capriati figured out what to do. Throughout this remarkable year she has figured out all the big stuff, the important stuff. She finally made us believe in her again and she's given me the hope that in my own life and in my own ways I can rethink and rebuild and believe in myself, too.

There's another part of this story that makes me cry. It's when we show pictures of Stefano and Denise Capriati sitting together long after they've been divorced, cheering and squeezing for this wondrous child of theirs.

It started in January when Stefano and Jennifer came back to Tampa from the Australian Open win. It was a quiet place to fly into: the Super Bowl was going on in that city. But there came the father and the kid from the plane, and meeting them at the gate was Denise.

Hard times had fallen on all of them and the family had shattered, but now the dream that had been deferred for so long had come to pass, and these three people were surely among the very few who'd thought that something this good could still happen. Jennifer and Denise hugged each other and laughed and cried. Then the parents, who hadn't hugged in years, fell into each other's arms and they cried, too.

Those kind of days keep happening. The whole family is healing. They're all getting to feel young again. It is a great gift, this, watching Jennifer take back her life and feel joy and peace and pure happiness again. She came back from herself, the toughest opponent of all, and the gifts she gave to herself are spilling off the court and onto me. She makes me think good things can still happen, no matter what.

Just as she had when she was a kid, Jennifer has all the promise of the world in her eyes. Some people just do, and I want to be around them. I thank Jennifer for days like this.

Mary Carillo is an analyst and play-by-play announcer for TNT's coverage of Wimbledon. She has been in broadcasting since retiring from the WTA tour in 1980.

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TNT's Mary Carillo: Scenes from a day off
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