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Davenport Reaches Australia Final

January 27, 2000

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) _ Lindsay Davenport ended Jennifer Capriati’s sentimental journey back to Grand Slam contention Thursday and reached the Australian Open final for the first time.

Even with a slight limp from a strained left thigh, Davenport outslugged Capriati from the baseline in an error-strewn 6-2, 7-6 (4) victory that reflected the precarious health of both players.

Davenport wore a bandage around her left thigh and came up sharply, wincing in pain, after several shots early in the match, which was played under the closed roof because of a light rain. Capriati occasionally clutched the abdominal muscles she strained earlier in the tournament.

Davenport exposed the flaws in Capriati’s game at this stage in her inspiring comeback, keeping her pinned to the baseline much of the match and making her race from side to side. Capriati rarely came to the net, as she had against lesser opponents, and couldn’t keep her groundstrokes in play enough to pressure Davenport.

``She was doing all the running and getting tired,″ Davenport said. ``It’s great to get through that match. She has gone through so much and I think it’s great that she’s come back. I know she’ll be around for many more years.″

Davenport, who won the U.S. Open in 1998 and Wimbledon last year, will be playing her third Grand Slam final against the winner of the Martina Hingis-Conchita Martinez semifinal.

``I’m 2-0, so maybe I’ll make it 3-0,″ she said.

Despite the loss, Capriati could take pride in reaching her first Grand Slam semifinal in nine years. She certainly had the crowd on her side, with fans shouting, ``C’mon, Jenny,″ throughout the match.

``It’s a great way to start off the year,″ Capriati said. ``I’m happy with my performance here ... but I want more.

``I know there’s still a lot of work to be done. I’ve played better than that. Certain times I was really playing there, but I couldn’t keep it up. I was using up a lot of energy just getting those serves back.″

Davenport said before the match that she had once idolized Capriati when they were both teens, and would have liked to see Capriati go to the final if she weren’t playing her. Though they are both 23, Capriati turned pro three years ahead of Davenport, then drifted out of the game while Davenport started making her mark.

They both won Olympic golds, Capriati in 1992, Davenport in 1996, but they took much different paths to meet on the same court in the Australian Open semifinals.

Davenport breezed through the first set in 22 minutes, dropping only five points on serve and twice breaking Capriati’s service.

Capriati showed her old competitiveness when she fought back from 2-4 in the second set, winning eight straight points to tie the set at 4-4. She broke for the third time in the set when Davenport served for the match at 5-4.

But at 4-4 in the tiebreaker, when each player boomed groundstrokes in a long rally, Capriati finally yielded with a backhand into the net. Capriati then barely missed a return wide to fall behind 6-4. Davenport took her time choosing the balls she wanted from the ballboy, then drilled a serve that put Capriati on the defensive, and Capriati ultimately fell in the short rally when she netted a forehand.

Capriati didn’t use her strained abdomen as an excuse for losing, though she clearly was in pain in some rallies.

``At the end, I started really going for (shots) and I started feeling it, but the pain has to be really bad to hinder my playing,″ Capriati said.

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