Unseeded Meskhi takes toll on No. 7 Capriati 25-year-old gains three-set victory

September 01, 1993|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Jennifer Capriati stared into space. Her voice began to quiver. Her eyes began to water. But her mind didn't begin to wander in the interview room yesterday at the National Tennis Center.

It had started too long before that. Out on the Stadium Court, midway through a 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 loss to unseeded Leila Meskhi of the Republic of Georgia, Capriati looked more her age (17) than her ranking (8).

Disinterested.

Disgusted.

"I think she was tired," Meskhi, 25 and ranked 37th, said of the women's seventh seed. "When I start to play longer points, she was really tired."

Meskhi, who beat then third-ranked Pam Shriver in the second-round of the 1988 Open, kept banging shots back at Capriati, who kept hitting them everywhere but on the court. By the time the match ended, Capriati had made an almost unheard-of 61 unforced errors.

"I was happy with what I was doing [in the first set]," said Capriati. "I thought I was playing great. Maybe I did lose concentration; just eased up a bit and, you know, I just started making errors and lost it mentally."

It was the second straight year in which Capriati exited early from theOpen. After reaching the fourth round as a 14-year-old in 1990, and becoming the youngest semifinalist in tournament history the following year, Capriati lost in the third round last year.

When asked if it was the most disappointing loss of her career, Capriati said, "It ranks right up there. It's kind of a shock."

It was about the only shocking thing that happened here yesterday among the top-seeded women. Second-seeded Arantxa Sanchez Vicario of Spain defeated Florencia Labat of Argentina, 6-4, 6-3, and fifth-seeded Gabriela Sabatini of Argentina had no trouble disposing of Patty Fendick, 6-3, 6-1.

In fact, of the nine women's seeded who played, five won in straight sets and Capriati was the only one to lose. Both No. 12 seeded Helena Sukova of the Czech Republic and No. 13 Mary Pierce won in third-set tiebreakers. No. 6 seed Mary Joe Fernandez withdrew after suffering abdominal pains.

The loss of Capriati and Fernandez left American women looking again to No. 3 seed Martina Navratilova as their only legitimate hope in ending an 11-year drought here at the Open.

"Up until now, I was happy with the way I was playing and the way everything was going," said Capriati. "I had a great week before last up in Canada [losing to Steffi Graf in the finals of the Canadian Open]. I was really looking forward to this. But hey, it was a good year, and I just move on."

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