Wimbledon Is Learning Experience For Capra

Ellicott City Teen Moves Up To 19th Among Junior Girls

July 14, 2009|By Chuck Culpepper | Chuck Culpepper,Tribune Newspapers

WIMBLEDON, England - - In a daunting scenario, a 17-year-old from Ellicott City stayed in a threadbare London-area dorm for two weeks without television and without the Internet.

The thing is, she adored it.

Beatrice Capra loved not so much the dorm with its bed, desk and bathroom - "It's kind of lonely," she said - but her first absorption of the wonderland known as the All England Club, where she reached the third round of the junior girls singles and the semifinals of the doubles.

Laurie Capra said her daughter has gone from being ranked No. 200 in the world to the top 20 after Wimbledon. She's now one of the top juniors in the United States, moving up from No. 42 over the past nine months.

"We're really proud of how she's moving forward in her game and her development," Laurie Capra said.

Like many a player or spectator first setting eyes upon the purple-and-green grounds, Beatrice Capra mentions the flowers tumbling over the boxes around the courts, the elegant attire of the officials and linespeople, the overall cleanliness.

"It's amazing," she said. "This is definitely the nicest place I've played out of all the Grand Slams I've played."

Capra grew up in Ellicott City before going to two tennis schools in Florida during the past two years. She maintains a daydream of making the top 10 and relishes the effort required to sustain it. "I love getting better," she said. Daily from tournaments she dials her mother, a tennis teacher, and hears that familiar opening salvo after each match, "Do you think you got better?"

"I try not to think about the result too much," Beatrice Capra said.

Getting a taste of pro tournaments will make her decision in the fall - college or pro - an interesting one. According to a tennis recruiting Web site, Capra is ranked as the fourth recruit in the country.

"I don't think she's settled on a favorite. She hasn't been on any visits," said her mother, who likes Duke, Vanderbilt and Virginia but emphasized that the decision will be her daughter's to make. "Any of these would be a good education. I want her to go wherever she fits in.

"We're going to get together in the fall and make some decisions about college. Whether she's going or delaying. She has a lot of options, which is great."

Before losing in the third round of Wimbledon to Miyabi Inoue of Japan, Capra, ranked 19th in the world in juniors, withstood a taut second-round match with Tamara Curovic of Serbia. She won the first set 6-3 and started thinking about winning the match - "It just struck me, 'Oh, my God, I could win this,' " she said - which led to a tightening, which led to a third set in which Capra went through a litany of match points before prevailing.

"I think it was good for me because I fought all the way. I was really proud of myself," she said.

And then, off the court, she found herselfwalking past women's semifinalists Elena Dementieva and Dinara Safina but feeling too scared to approach them "because I'm afraid I'll make them lose focus."

On the TV monitors in those rooms, she and the fellow players she calls friends got a sense of the possible when they watched Melanie Oudin, the Atlantan who reached the final 16 of the women's draw.

"Last year Melanie and I were playing the same tournaments, and this year she's beating [No. 6 Jelena] Jankovic," Capra said. "So it was really inspiring, what she did."

That goes also for the entire five-week Italian Open-French Open-Wimbledon trek for a player with Italian lineage, extended family around Milan and the capacity to understand Italian if not speak it.

"It's amazing," she said. "It's unbelievable to me."

Baltimore Sun reporter Aaron Wright contributed to this article.

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