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  Saturday, 27 January, 2001, 11:28 GMT
Top of the pops
Jennifer Capriati
Capriati was drilling forehands before she could walk
By BBC Sport Online's Stephen Wood in Melbourne

Jennifer Capriati's sensational victory in the women's singles at the Australian Open marks another chapter in her tennis career.

It is a career in which her father Stefano has taken a major starring role.

It was he who stuck a small, plastic tennis racquet over the cot of Capriati at the family home in New York before she could talk.

It was he who was drilling her mighty forehand on the Florida courts before she could hardly walk.

Rebel

Not surprisingly, Capriati's wildchild days as a 16-year-old were often reported as a rebellion against her family, and Stefano in particular.

He was one of the first of a breed of overbearing 'tennis fathers', a mantle picked up so willingly by the fathers of Mary Pierce, Lucic and, most recently, Jelena Dokic.
Jennifer Capriati
That's my girl: Stefano congratulates his daughter

But Capriati's fairytale also embraces her patched-up relationship with her dad.

Stefano is her coach again, travelling the circuit with his "baby", as he calls her, and the chemistry undoubtedly helped Capriati win her first Grand Slam title.

Crucially, he has supplied a little discipline at just the time when Capriati's thoughts were wandering again, this time to boyfriend and ATP Tour player, Xavier Malisse.

More importantly, however, Capriati the 24-year-old has been old enough to take or reject the advice as she so desired.

  Jennifer Capriati factfile
1976: Born New York, USA, March 29.
1990: Turns professional 24 days before her 14th birthday
1990: Becomes the youngest Grand Slam semi-finalist in history at Roland Garros
1992: Gold medallist at the Barcelona Olympics
1993: The start of a two-year absence, has problems with drugs and shoplifting
1996: Finishes year ranked 24th
1997: Finishes year 66th
1998: Hit by injury, finishes 101st
1999: Wins at Strasbourg, Quebec City, finishes year 23rd
2000: Reaches Aus Open semi-final in nine years and ranked 14th
2001: Wins Australian Open

It is she who has buckled down to a heavy workload of physical fitness programmes in a bid to shed the excess weight that was preventing her from making the huge steps she took against Lindsay Davenport and Martina Hingis.

Family ties

And as she turned to celebrate with her father after clinching the women's, it was clear that their bond had survived.

"My Dad is a tremendous force for me right now," she said.

"He's the best coach I've ever had, and he will always be the best coach to me.

"He started me playing tennis and my game is basically what he taught me.

"But I definitely have my own mind now. I do what I want.

"He doesn't tell me what time to go to bed - well, okay, sometimes he does - but we trust each other again."

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See also:

27 Jan 01 | Australian Open
27 Jan 01 | Australian Open
27 Jan 01 | Australian Open
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