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   Monday, 28 January, 2002, 11:33 GMT
Women's final saves the day
Jennifer Capriati kisses the Australian Open trophy
Capriati's comeback was one of the best ever
BBC Sport Online reviews a disappointing 2002 Australian Open.

There are two ways to look at the first Grand Slam men's singles tournament of the year.

A competition in which every fancied player crashed out, and which was won by a virtual unknown, possibly underlined the strength in depth of the men's tour.

Then again, it might just have been a poor Australian Open.

Add the intense disappointment for organisers when top seed and Aussie favourite Lleyton Hewitt lost in the opening round, and it is fair to say it was not a successful tournament.

The women's competition, at least, sparked into life in the later rounds, culminating in arguably the most thrilling comeback of any Australian Open final.

I am not Superman

Lleyton Hewitt
But the first half of the tournament was not much better for the ladies than the men.

The men's competition lost Andre Agassi through injury before a ball was hit in anger.

And so in the women's section, Serena Williams pulled out after making a "210%" effort to shrug off an ankle injury.

Both were genuinely distraught. "This is not good news for anyone," said an Agassi, who had injured his wrist in a warm-up tournament.

Condemned

Be that as it may, two of the biggest drawcards in men's and women's tennis had been lost to the Australian Open before it had begun.

And in the women's competition, that was after Lindsay Davenport and Mary Pierce failed to make it through knee and abdominal injuries respectively.

At least Hewitt had recovered from chicken pox in time to play.

Alas, the world number one's illness caught up with him as Spanish journeyman Alberto Martin won 1-6 6-1 6-4 7-6.

Hewitt was therefore condemned to the record books as the first Australian Open men's singles top seed to lose in the first round.

Lleyton Hewitt pictured after his first round exit
Hewitt had not fully recovered from chicken pox
"Everyone knows that for my game I need strength and speed and I didn't have that," he said.

"I am not Superman, I can't do anything about that."

Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten - second seed despite a dismal record in Australia - also went out and another local hero, Mark Philippoussis, followed in round two.

For the first time in the history of the event no Australian man had reached the third round and tournament director Paul McNamee was left to talk about "the depth of the men's game".

All well and good but a quarter-final line-up containing Wayne Ferreira, Jiri Novak, Stefan Koubek, Jonas Bjorkman and Thomas Johansson was hardly likely to capture the public imagination.

Still the crowds came, but when the bulk of the interest appeared to be in the trio of blondes who watched Marat Safin's games from his private box, things were not looking good.

Safin, perhaps inspired by his so-called "blondies", reached the final and lost to Johansson, who had never previously been beyond the quarter-finals of a major.

Happily by that time the women's section - branded "a joke" by Marcelo Rios earlier in the tournament - was picking up.

Thomas Johansson with his silverware
Thomas Johansson was a shock winner

Rios possibly had a point about the lack of depth in the women's game - with seven of the eight top seeds reaching the quarter-finals - but the way it was expressed caused an undignified spat with the likes of Martina Hingis.

All that was forgotten, however, when Hingis met Jennifer Capriati in what was to become a memorable final.

Defending champion Capriati looked certain to surrender her crown but Hingis wilted in the sizzling heat - wearing an ice vest in the breaks and almost refusing to play the third set.

Capriati capitalised by saving four match points to stun Hingis 4-6 6-7 (7/9) 6-2 and claim the title.

It was a final which did much to erase the memory of what had gone before, but then what had gone before was, for many, pretty forgettable anyway.


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