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FRENCH OPEN WOMEN

New Voice Refreshes Capriati

June 03, 2004|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

PARIS — A voice came out of the stands during Jennifer Capriati's practice session at Roland Garros on Wednesday afternoon.

It was Stefano Capriati, who watched his 28-year-old daughter finish a light workout against a hitting partner in preparation for her semifinal match today against Anastasia Myskina of Russia at the French Open.

Of course. Hasn't it always been that way?

The father and daughter have almost always been in the same zone since Capriati burst onto the pro scene in 1990 at age 13.

But there's a third party involved in Capriati's latest renaissance, which continued Tuesday with a three-set quarterfinal victory over Serena Williams.

Coach Heinz Gunthardt of Switzerland was on the court too. He started working with Capriati a few weeks before Berlin, energizing what had been a lackluster season for her. In their three tournaments together, she reached a semifinal in Berlin, a final in Rome and has reached the final four here.

With Capriati, it's simply a matter of fine tuning.

"What I tried to say to her when I first started working with her, she doesn't have to look for anything, everything is there," said Gunthardt, who used to coach Steffi Graf. "Everything is stored on the hard disk. You're looking in the wrong spot.

"At times, when you haven't been playing well ... you question this and question that. The reason why you aren't playing well is because you are questioning yourself."

Said Capriati: "When you work with someone so long, like my dad, you just kind of stop looking at those things as kind of important. When someone new comes into the picture, you just open your ears a little bit more to what they're going to say."

The seventh-seeded Capriati has vastly more experience at this stage than the other three semifinalists. She has won three majors, including the French Open in 2001, and her opponent, No. 6 Myskina, is appearing in her first Grand Slam semifinal. Capriati has won five of their six matches.

In today's other semifinal, No. 9 Elena Dementieva of Russia faces No. 14 Paola Suarez of Argentina. Dementieva leads their series, 2-1, but Suarez has won their only meeting on clay. Suarez is the only one of the four semifinalists who has not lost a set here.

Dementieva, who defeated Amelie Mauresmo of France in straight sets in a quarterfinal, has been in the final four of a major before, but not since 2000, when she became the first Russian woman to reach the U.S. Open semifinals. She lost to Lindsay Davenport and shortly thereafter went on to win a silver medal at the Summer Olympics in Sydney.

"It was almost four years ago," Dementieva said of her subsequent shortcomings in majors. "I couldn't show my game during the Grand Slams. I wasn't prepared for two-week tournaments. I couldn't handle all this pressure. I didn't know what to do when I had a break between matches. And now, I feel like I have more experience."

And so, what about the possibility of an all-Russian French Open final?

"What a question," Dementieva said. "Nobody knows about it. But we'll see."

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Semifinals

No. 7 JENNIFER CAPRIATI vs. No. 6 ANASTASIA MYSKINA

* Head to head: Capriati leads, 5-1.

* Last meeting: Capriati won, 6-3, 6-2, in quarterfinal at 2004 Berlin tournament.

* On clay: Capriati has won both meetings (Charleston, Berlin).

No. 9 ELENA DEMENTIEVA vs. No. 14 PAOLA SUAREZ

* Head to head: Dementieva leads, 2-1.

* Last meeting: Dementieva won, 6-4, 6-2, in round of 32 at 2002 Carlsbad tournament.

* On clay: Suarez won their only meeting (Acapulco).

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