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Former pro-tennis player Jennifer Capriati is known for her incredible comeback after several personal struggles. In 1990 she was the youngest player to ever be ranked in the Women's Tennis Association top ten.
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Upon her arrival at Saddlebrook, Capriati began entering junior tennis competitions and immediately learned she could dominate opponents several years her senior.
In 1989, at the age of 13, she became the youngest player in history to win the French Open junior title. She followed that by winning the U.S. Open junior title as well as the U.S. Open and Wimbledon junior doubles titles in the same year.
A year later, in March 1990, still only 13 years old,
Capriati made her professional debut in the Virginia Slims tournament held in Boca Raton, Florida. In her very first match, she dismantled 10-year veteran Mary Lou Daniels in straight sets. Later that day, she played her first professional doubles match alongside the 46-year-old tennis legend Billie Jean King.
Although King and Capriati lost in the second round, in the singles tournament Capriati advanced all the way to the finals before finally losing to world No. 3 Gabriela Sabatini. Capriati's miraculous debut caused a sensation in the tennis world. "This wasn't a debut," said tennis great Ted Tinling. "It was a premiere!"
Within months, Capriati won her first professional tournament, the 1990 Puerto Rico Open. A year later, in 1991, she reached the semifinals of both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, and at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona she defeated Steffi Graf to take home the gold medal. She was 16 years old, had appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated and dozens of other magazines, surpassed $1 million in career winnings and earned millions more in sponsorships from Prince racquets, Oil of Olay, and the Italian sportswear line Diadora.
But she was also beginning to feel overwhelmed by the pressures and temptations of being a teenage sports phenomenon. By 1993, Capriati's career and life started spiraling out of control. After an early exit from the U.S. Open that fall, she went on hiatus from the pro tennis tour. She drank heavily and experimented with drugs. In December, she was arrested in a mall for shoplifting a $15 bracelet, and several months later she was arrested again for possession of marijuana. Her now-infamous mug shot depicts a baggy-eyed, sullen and depressed 17-year-old nearly unrecognizable from the fist-pumping, smiling teen who had taken the world by storm a few years earlier.
Although she returned to professional tennis in 1996, Capriati spent the next several years playing like a shadow of her former self. She enjoyed occasional highlights, reaching the quarterfinals or semifinals of tournaments ever so often, but was hardly the dominant force her precocious early successes seemed to predict.
Then in 2001, seemingly out of nowhere, Capriati defeated defending champion Lindsay Davenport in the semifinals of the 2001 Australian Open and went on to shock world No. 1 Martina Hingis in the finals to claim her first major championship. A few months later, she won back-to-back majors by defeating teenage sensation Kim Clijsters in the French Open final. In 2002, she defended her Australian Open title to win her third major championship and become the No.
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