NEW YORK — Burned out by tennis and despairing over her appearance and relationships, Jennifer Capriati says she once thought about killing herself.
In an interview published Monday in the New York Times, Capriati spoke of a tennis career that began spectacularly at age 13 but left her in anguish four years later.
Her problems came to a head after losing to Leila Meskhi in the first round of the 1993 U.S. Open. She had nightmares after losing in the Open in 1991 and began crying incessantly after this latest loss.
"I started out OK, but at the end of the match I couldn't wait to get off the court," she told the newspaper. "Totally, mentally, I just lost it, and obviously it goes deeper than that one match.
"I really was not happy with myself, my tennis, my life, my parents, my coaches, my friends. . . . When I looked in my mirror, I actually saw this distorted image: I was so ugly and fat, I just wanted to kill myself, really."
Capriati, 18, last played professionally in the 1993 Open. She was planning to make her comeback next week in Zurich, Switzerland, and the following week in Filderstadt, Germany.
However, the Times said, she has delayed her return because of a groin injury. It was not clear when she intends to play next.
Capriati told the Times she feels many of her problems stem from turning professional too early.
"I was always expected to be at the top, and if I didn't win, to me that meant I was a loser," she said. "I felt like my parents and everybody else thought that tennis was the way to make it in life, they thought it was good, but I thought no one knew or wanted to know the person who was behind my tennis life."
Now, she said, "it's just a game to me now.
"I don't care about being No. 1, but I'm ready and willing to give it a battle."
On May 16, she was arrested in a Coral Gables, Fla., motel and was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of marijuana possession. She went into a 28-day treatment program in Florida.
Capriati, after having not touched a racket for months, said she realized she wanted to play tennis again last winter.
"It wasn't like I wanted to go back to it yet," she said. "But when I thought about the slams, I always thought, 'I'll be there again.' "