Editor’s note: On the eve of Jennifer’s Capriati’s election into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, here is feature written on the three -time Grand Slam champion in the spring of 2002, right after Capriaiti’s infamous Fed Cup clash with Billie Jean King.
By Matthew Cronin
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – While USTA officials sang praises of Carolina blue sky and America’s Fed Cup team in their spanking new USA warm-ups happily flashed smiles to the crowd, Jennifer of a Thousand Faces clapped lightly, nervously pulled at her out-of-sorts brown mane and made a sour puss that rivaled that of Persian feline who had just gulped a cup of milk gone bad.
This was not the Jennifer who lit up Melbourne three months before with her exhilarating comeback over Martina Hingis, nor the Capriati that kept the sun shining past midnight in Paris last year after she outfought Kim Clijsters for her French Open title. This was the rebellious Jennifer, the brimming with demons hellcat who was about to try to buck her legendary captain’s authority for the last time and end up being booted off the team.
“I think Jennifer’s feeling a lot of pressure with the French coming up and having to defend her title,” U.S. Fed Cup captain Billie Jean King told me two days after she booted Capriati, resulting in a stunning 3-0 loss to Austria and creating the biggest brouhaha in U.S. Fed Cup history. ” It starts to add up. It’s like boiling water