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Anger Works for Capriati

Australian Open: Unhappy with a third-set overrule, she heats up in 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 victory.


MELBOURNE, Australia — When Jennifer Capriati argued, to no avail, about a vital overrule against her in the opening game of the third set, it appeared to signal the end of her Australian Open title defense. After all, she was hobbled, hot and hunted.


Not one, but two injured legs.


Summer finally arrived in Melbourne and the temperature inched close to 90 degrees today during Capriati's match against No. 81-ranked Eleni Daniilidou of Greece. And, on court, it was considerably warmer. Hunted?

As the defending champion and top-seeded player, Capriati is no longer the automatic sentimental favorite every time she steps on the court. It's normal when the hunter turns into the hunted, as former champion Martina Hingis is fond of saying. The turnabout was more pronounced because Melbourne's large Greek community packed the house at Vodafone Arena and threw its support behind Daniilidou, drawing a reprimand from the chair umpire after cheering a Capriati double fault.

The chair umpire, Jane Harvey, turned into a key figure in the third set when she made an overrule in Daniilidou's favor. The Greek teenager hit a forehand winner on break point, catching the corner and the shot was called out. Capriati was irate at the overrule and lost of the first game of the decisive set.

"Look at the mark, you can see it," Capriati said. This being Melbourne, and not Paris, Harvey stayed in the chair.

What happened next would seem extraordinary to those who have not watched Capriati very often. She got angry, put some additional power behind her groundstrokes and did not lose another game, defeating Daniilidou, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1, in 1 hour 41 minutes. Daniilidou admitted afterward that she was "a little nervous." Something similar happened to Capriati here in the fourth round last year. She felt she received a bad call in her match against Marta Marrero of Spain, trailing 1-5. After Capriati threw a small tantrum, a longtime friend walked over to the press section and said: "Watch this." And Capriati lost only one more game.

Today, the situation was more difficult. Capriati has been struggling with a hip flexor injury on both sides and needed treatment during the match, having both legs wrapped. It impacted her service motion and she finished with an uncommon amount of double faults (10). Capriati will play Rita Grande of Italy in the fourth round. The trainers were busy during Grande's match against No. 16 Iroda Tulyagonova of Uzbekistan, needing to treat both players. Grande finally prevailed, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.

Shortly before Capriati's close call, Marcelo Rios of Chile was dismissive of the depth on the women's tour. Rios, who defeated Alberto Martin of Spain in the third round, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (3), declared there were few difficult matches in the early rounds.

"I always say men's tennis is too tough," Rios said. "It's not like the girls, where they win one and love, until they're in the quarters. Like, a girl that is [ranked] 40 now is going to beat Hingis. Yesterday, I saw Hingis, and I don't know, a German girl. It was 6-0, 6-1. It's like a joke.

"I think in men's that's not going to happen. Everybody is tough. And you can see [Fernando] Gonzalez, he's [ranked] 160, and he's from Chile and he's in the fourth round, killing everybody, playing as good as he can. Men's is tough. Even if you have a bad ranking, anyone can beat you today."

Rios was fairly genial with the media, a departure from his testy nature when he was ranked No. 1 and reached the final here in 1998.

He spoke about the calming influence of his wife and baby daughter. His wife was a top junior international player from Costa Rica, but Rios was adamant about the child's future sporting plans.

"No chance," Rios said. "She's not going to be a tennis player."

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