Capriati's surprising success vs Serena, particularly relative to other top players

#1
For even a 3 slam winner Capriati generally fares quite poorly vs top players. Here are some of her key head to heads:

vs Seles: 4-9
vs Graf: 1-10
vs Venus: 0-4
vs Henin: 2-5 (peak Capriati and not even prime Henin)
vs Clijsters: 3-3 (the 3 wins the first 3 vs baby Clijsters in I think 2001-early 2002 though)
vs Mauresmo: 4-7 (not peak Mauresmo of 2004-2006, peak Capriati of 2001-2003)
vs Novotna: 0-4 (all matches slump Jennifer so this one no big deal, they practically never really played unfortunately)
vs Sabatini: 4-6
vs Hingis: 4-5
vs Davenport: 3-11
vs Sanchez: 4-7 I think (not sure on this one)

Apart from Hingis all not good. Considering Sabatini and Novotna are 1 slam winners, Mauresmo has fewer slams than Capriati.

She is 7-10 vs Serena though. Quite interesting, she has a better head to head vs arguably the womens GOAT than nearly all the top 7 regulars and slam winners of her 2 primes she faced, and infinitely better than she could fare vs the other arguable womens GOAT Graf, Venus, or even Henin.

What did she do so well to give Serena so much trouble, especialy given her relative ineptitude vs everyone else of relevance.
 

PDJ

G.O.A.T.
#2
For even a 3 slam winner Capriati generally fares quite poorly vs top players. Here are some of her key head to heads:

vs Seles: 4-9
vs Graf: 1-10
vs Venus: 0-4
vs Henin: 2-5 (peak Capriati and not even prime Henin)
vs Clijsters: 3-3 (the 3 wins the first 3 vs baby Clijsters in I think 2001-early 2002 though)
vs Mauresmo: 4-7 (not peak Mauresmo of 2004-2006, peak Capriati of 2001-2003)
vs Novotna: 0-4 (all matches slump Jennifer so this one no big deal, they practically never really played unfortunately)
vs Sabatini: 4-6
vs Hingis: 4-5
vs Davenport: 3-11
vs Sanchez: 4-7 I think (not sure on this one)

Apart from Hingis all not good. Considering Sabatini and Novotna are 1 slam winners, Mauresmo has fewer slams than Capriati.

She is 7-10 vs Serena though. Quite interesting, she has a better head to head vs arguably the womens GOAT than nearly all the top 7 regulars and slam winners of her 2 primes she faced, and infinitely better than she could fare vs the other arguable womens GOAT Graf, Venus, or even Henin.

What did she do so well to give Serena so much trouble, especialy given her relative ineptitude vs everyone else of relevance.
I think there was something about the feisty Williams that brought out the best in the equally feisty Capriarti. The same could be said of Cornet against Williams.
Their personalities seem to match up well.
Diva v Diva :)
 
#3
For even a 3 slam winner Capriati generally fares quite poorly vs top players. Here are some of her key head to heads:

vs Seles: 4-9
vs Graf: 1-10
vs Venus: 0-4
vs Henin: 2-5 (peak Capriati and not even prime Henin)
vs Clijsters: 3-3 (the 3 wins the first 3 vs baby Clijsters in I think 2001-early 2002 though)
vs Mauresmo: 4-7 (not peak Mauresmo of 2004-2006, peak Capriati of 2001-2003)
vs Novotna: 0-4 (all matches slump Jennifer so this one no big deal, they practically never really played unfortunately)
vs Sabatini: 4-6
vs Hingis: 4-5
vs Davenport: 3-11
vs Sanchez: 4-7 I think (not sure on this one)

Apart from Hingis all not good. Considering Sabatini and Novotna are 1 slam winners, Mauresmo has fewer slams than Capriati.

She is 7-10 vs Serena though. Quite interesting, she has a better head to head vs arguably the womens GOAT than nearly all the top 7 regulars and slam winners of her 2 primes she faced, and infinitely better than she could fare vs the other arguable womens GOAT Graf, Venus, or even Henin.

What did she do so well to give Serena so much trouble, especialy given her reladedtive ineptitude vs everyone else of relevance.
I'm not sure; its not that Capriati is some tactical master on Serena's level, but there was some sort of angle she played to keep up--to a point. She did not know the court anywhere near as well as Serena, and lacked a formidable serve, so her being able to compete is...odd.

Capriati would never admit it, but her return to the game (in the period where she won her majors) was one already seeing great change, where she was sort of a Trivial Pursuit question (if that) about someone left behind--primarily by the rise/revolution of the Williams sisters--Serena in particular. Unlike fellow American Lindsay "California Club" Davenport who was not dominating/revolutionizing the sport (or transcending it), Serena even surpassed her sister to be the American in tennis at home and aboard, completely erasing a similar (albeit lesser) status once held by Capriati to the tennis media, the USTA/WTA, etc.

Some cannot handle being "buried" by a superior when they once believed the world to be theirs (again, she would deny that). Many of Capriati's matches vs. Serena carried the kind of emotion suggestive of the theory--as if Capriati were making / taking Everything Serena personally, and as a result, she focused her 2nd stage game on Serena almost exclusively, which allowed her to compete as closely as the record shows. I cannot find any talent/skill-related reason for her H2H against her.
 
#9
I agree with both of you that playing Serena brought out the most emotion and most "I have something to prove" feeling in Capriati. And furthermore she did have her sights set on the Williams as it quietly boiled her during her hiatus and struggles to see them replace her as the popular icons of American tennis (Davenport too sort of but not in the same way as Thundervolley pointed out)
 
#10
I agree with both of you that playing Serena brought out the most emotion and most "I have something to prove" feeling in Capriati. And furthermore she did have her sights set on the Williams as it quietly boiled her during her hiatus and struggles to see them replace her as the popular icons of American tennis (Davenport too sort of but not in the same way as Thundervolley pointed out)
Yes, I do believe Capriati--despite her claims of not liking the manufactured early part of her career as some "America's favorite" (and echoed by the likes of Austin and Evert)--resented the rise of Serena to be next, major player right after Graf (and completely overshadowing Hingis, who--along with her fans--believed she was some GOAT in the making). False entitlement is a terrible mindset to embrace, and if anything, its fringe benefit was a string of strong matches between Serena and Capriati, such as:

 

jrepac

Hall of Fame
#12
I think the psychological components already mentioned are hard to deny. But Capriati's game feeds on power/pace. She's a great power-counterpuncher, and one of the few that could absorb all the blows. Serena (when not serving well) has a game that feeds into Capriati's.
I totally agree with you. Let's not forget that Jen was one of the big-babe, power players. Serena was all about power and that fed right into Capriati's wheelhouse. She could take it and dish it right back. While those H2Hs are a bit dismal, they don't tell the full story.
 
#13
It's hardly surprising Capriarti felt 'special' given the sheer hype of being a child prodigy that accompanied her every move. Turning professional at 13 and getting to the final of her first tournament. Youngest to reach SF of the FO.
The pressure of being the next Evert must have been a double-edged sword.
Still, she had a great second career. And has been mentioned, one of the very few that never felt threatened by Serena Williams on court. Hence her results - probably one of the few to beat Williams at multiple majors back when Williams was the player to beat.
 

jrepac

Hall of Fame
#14
It's hardly surprising Capriarti felt 'special' given the sheer hype of being a child prodigy that accompanied her every move. Turning professional at 13 and getting to the final of her first tournament. Youngest to reach SF of the FO.
The pressure of being the next Evert must have been a double-edged sword.
Still, she had a great second career. And has been mentioned, one of the very few that never felt threatened by Serena Williams on court. Hence her results - probably one of the few to beat Williams at multiple majors back when Williams was the player to beat.
It's a shame she did not do more, but she didn't do badly....3 GS and reached the #1 ranking....
 
#15
I totally agree with you. Let's not forget that Jen was one of the big-babe, power players. Serena was all about power and that fed right into Capriati's wheelhouse. .
Ah, but one of Serena's edges was her playing more than the baseline (against any player, not just Capriati). You don't help earn doubles majors being a baseline blaster. That knowledge was something Capriaiti lacked, and all the scrambling in the world was not going to give Capriati that additional (necessary) skill to ever dominate Serena.
 
#16
Ah, but one of Serena's edges was her playing more than the baseline (against any player, not just Capriati). You don't help earn doubles majors being a baseline blaster. That knowledge was something Capriaiti lacked, and all the scrambling in the world was not going to give Capriati that additional (necessary) skill to ever dominate Serena.
And yet.... Williams didn't dominate Capriarti either. Kinda the point of the thread :)
 

jrepac

Hall of Fame
#17
And yet.... Williams didn't dominate Capriarti either. Kinda the point of the thread :)
Right; she did not dominate Serena, but relative to others, scored some very significant wins over her. Certainly not a given that Serena would win when they met (unlike other match ups, like w/Sharapova which became completely, utterly one-sided).
 
#20
Sometimes tennis is all about match ups. Jen probably was just a tough match up for Serena which would explain why Jen struggled against other top players. Serena does not seem to have trouble with players that try to be "cute" with the tennis; but players who play "straight ahead, knock the fuzz off the ball" tennis couple with descent movement will give her the most trouble.
 
#21
Sometimes tennis is all about match ups. Jen probably was just a tough match up for Serena which would explain why Jen struggled against other top players. Serena does not seem to have trouble with players that try to be "cute" with the tennis; but players who play "straight ahead, knock the fuzz off the ball" tennis couple with descent movement will give her the most trouble.
Serena is also known to have had times in her career when she wasn’t exactly fit or tennis focuses. Perhaps Jennifer benefitted from that too?

I think surface matters. She was 3-4 on hard and 0-1 on grass. But 3-3 on clay. Jennifer was a better clay court player than Serena IMHO and Serena of course loves the fast courts. If all of those matches were on fast hard court or grass I don’t think Jennifer would have 7 wins.

That said: Mad respect for Jennifer to come back from her personal troubles the way she did.
 
#22
Sometimes tennis is all about match ups. Jen probably was just a tough match up for Serena which would explain why Jen struggled against other top players. Serena does not seem to have trouble with players that try to be "cute" with the tennis; but players who play "straight ahead, knock the fuzz off the ball" tennis couple with descent movement will give her the most trouble.
Agreed. Dementieva and Cornet both have very close H2H with Serena Williams. And both beat Williams on the biggest stage.
 
#23
Serena doesn't like to play against consistent ball bashers who are not intimidated by her. You can see that well in that wimby final against sharapova who blasted the ball without making many errors. Later of course she did manage to get into sharapovas head and dominated her.
 
#24
Serena doesn't like to play against consistent ball bashers who are not intimidated by her. You can see that well in that wimby final against sharapova who blasted the ball without making many errors. Later of course she did manage to get into sharapovas head and dominated her.
Muguruza is another player, similar in style to Sharapova, that troubles Williams.
 
#25
Serena doesn't like to play against consistent ball bashers who are not intimidated by her. You can see that well in that wimby final against sharapova who blasted the ball without making many errors. Later of course she did manage to get into sharapovas head and dominated her.
Sharapova only won due to Serena not being used to her game. "Early shock" can catch anyone off guard, and considering how well she played against everyone else, it seems plausible that a player with a game Serena--at the time--as not that familiar with--could be caught off guard. While you are getting used to a game--while its happening--the opponent is just free to go for everything with no fear that her game would be dissected in any reasonable amount of time.
 
#26
Sometimes tennis is all about match ups. Jen probably was just a tough match up for Serena which would explain why Jen struggled against other top players. Serena does not seem to have trouble with players that try to be "cute" with the tennis; but players who play "straight ahead, knock the fuzz off the ball" tennis couple with descent movement will give her the most trouble.
Serena also owned all slow powerful players which explains why Davenport who was generally a better player than Capriati, gave her little trouble. Might also be one reason she owns Sharapova so badly (although there are numerous reasaons here). Capriati is a power player who can actually move, atleast when fit.
 
#27
Serena also owned all slow powerful players which explains why Davenport who was generally a better player than Capriati, gave her little trouble. Might also be one reason she owns Sharapova so badly (although there are numerous reasaons here). Capriati is a power player who can actually move, atleast when fit.
Davenport was not a good mover. Excellent ball striker. Not very quick.
 
#29
I think the psychological components already mentioned are hard to deny. But Capriati's game feeds on power/pace. She's a great power-counterpuncher, and one of the few that could absorb all the blows. Serena (when not serving well) has a game that feeds into Capriati's.
I think you make an excellent point about the power counterpunching thing. That is a good way to describe Capriati's game and effectiveness vs Serena. Capriati is very good at feeding off and redirecting pace.
 
#30
I think you make an excellent point about the power counterpunching thing. That is a good way to describe Capriati's game and effectiveness vs Serena. Capriati is very good at feeding off and redirecting pace.
2 observations about Capriarti:
1) I don't know why she didn't come in more? Her swinging volley was equal to any one else, with the possible exception of Venus Williams with her reach. Plus Capriarti had quick hands.
2) she served so quickly! There was barely a pause between first and second serves. Hence she could have a slew of double faults.
All of that said, her comeback was incredible. I greatly enjoyed watching her fight.
 
#31
Serena doesn't like to play against consistent ball bashers who are not intimidated by her. You can see that well in that wimby final against sharapova who blasted the ball without making many errors. Later of course she did manage to get into sharapovas head and dominated her.
Sharapova is a "fearless" big ball striker, but has horrible movement. She caught Serena twice and that's it. For someone lauded for being fearless; against Serena...not so much.
 
#32
2 observations about Capriarti:
1) I don't know why she didn't come in more? Her swinging volley was equal to any one else, with the possible exception of Venus Williams with her reach. Plus Capriarti had quick hands.
2) she served so quickly! There was barely a pause between first and second serves. Hence she could have a slew of double faults.
All of that said, her comeback was incredible. I greatly enjoyed watching her fight.
She should have totally redone her service action. In her adult years it was horrible (it was better in her teens). She could not possibly have that strong a serve with that motion. While the serve itself is not nearly as bad, the motion is almost Dementieva like with the wayward toss way out in front, and the sideswipe of the pronating arm to catch up to the toss.

If she had a better serve she could have won atleast another couple slams.

And yes she should have come in more. She actually had both a fairly good punch/classic volley, in addition to a great swing volley. While she was powerful she didnt quite have that extra punch most times off the ground to hit too many clean winners against the top players as Davenport and the Williams and even Henin had, so finishing more off her near winners off the net.
 
#33
Sharapova is a "fearless" big ball striker, but has horrible movement. She caught Serena twice and that's it. For someone lauded for being fearless; against Serena...not so much.
In fairness the sport is so much mental. When you lose to someone enough times in a row, that gets in anyones head no matter how tough mentally you are. It would probably even affect Serena, that theory has simply never been tested as she is simply just too good to lose to anyone that many times in a row, LOL!

Also though Maria and her Dad made a big mistake acting like they did at the 2004 YEC final. The sheer level of obnoxiousness, which if you watched the match I am sure you are familiar with, papa Sharapova was worse than Richard Williams at his worst ever which is saying something, was such that it lit an extra fire in Serena to really try and own and just demolish Maria from there. The fact even Henin and her blatant cheating at the 2003 French did not ignite that level of rage in Serena for future matches with Henin, shows just much Maria and her Dad's behavior peeved Serena off to the core, and what a huge mistake it was. They had no idea who they were dealing with. Ultimate karma.
 
#35
@chimneysweep there is something to what you are saying. I find it interesting that Serena struggles with players that like her or hold her in esteem.
Exactly. Even Henin (who does better against her than most) who blatantly cheated against her in a big match, holds her in very high esteem. Yeah she cheated against her in that RG semi but that isnt based on Serena, it is since Henin is flat out huge ass cheater, and she cheats against anyone (Australian Open final vs Clijsters and the finger on the huge point, faking the mark and fooling Myskina to not use a challenge on that big point on the 3rd set of their Olympic semi, strange timeouts and bathroom breaks in many close big matches, the fake tummy ache and quit against Mauresmo in AO final, etc..). Those who show clear disrespect to Serena she gets extra up for and owns. Capriati doesnt super like Serena, but she sure respects her.

On another note people dont realize it, but Serena's 15 year and 15 match or something win streak vs Sharapova is one of the most impressive thing in tennis history. I cant stand Maria, so tend to unfairly devalue her a bit, especialy since her doping charges. Maria is still a 5 time Slam winner and a Career Slammer. She has to be the best player in history to be that owned by someone else. This isnt the same as say Mary Joe Fernandez going winless vs Graf and Seles, Sharapova is no Fernandez.
 
#39
Cornet isn’t exactly a great champion either.
She's not. But she ain't afraid of Williams.
Cornet is pure theatre. But fun theatre.
Also, Cornet was one of the few to hit drop shots against Williams when she was still a major force - as evidenced in the video below.

 
#41
Exactly. Even Henin (who does better against her than most) who blatantly cheated against her in a big match, holds her in very high esteem. Yeah she cheated against her in that RG semi but that isnt based on Serena, it is since Henin is flat out huge ass cheater, and she cheats against anyone (Australian Open final vs Clijsters and the finger on the huge point, faking the mark and fooling Myskina to not use a challenge on that big point on the 3rd set of their Olympic semi, strange timeouts and bathroom breaks in many close big matches, the fake tummy ache and quit against Mauresmo in AO final, etc..). Those who show clear disrespect to Serena she gets extra up for and owns. Capriati doesnt super like Serena, but she sure respects her.

On another note people dont realize it, but Serena's 15 year and 15 match or something win streak vs Sharapova is one of the most impressive thing in tennis history. I cant stand Maria, so tend to unfairly devalue her a bit, especialy since her doping charges. Maria is still a 5 time Slam winner and a Career Slammer. She has to be the best player in history to be that owned by someone else. This isnt the same as say Mary Joe Fernandez going winless vs Graf and Seles, Sharapova is no Fernandez.
But nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 15 times in a row.
 
#42
Well in 2001 she was at her best, 2004 was okay overall, great vs Serena at the FO and USO. But the 2004 win at the USO was kind of a joke.
That was the match where Serena got totally hosed on several calls. I remember one shot Jen hit that was like three feet out that was called good. Thatnwas one of the reasons they started the challenge system I believe.
 
#45
She did have a decent record and a LOT of good matches against Serena. Maybe it's just one of those players she truly enjoyed playing. Also, maybe she "liked" Serena's ball and picked up on her patterns. She has a worse record against Davenport, who obviously doesn't have Serena's movement - but Capriati seemed to be more bothered/overwhelmed by Davenport's ball. at times

"vs Henin: 2-5 (peak Capriati and not even prime Henin)"

My source says 3-4 Capriati, but one was a default where Capriati was up 2-1 in the third after splitting the first two sets. What does the bolded text even mean? All their matches were between 2001 and 2003. Henin was a Wimbledon finalist in 2001 and won two Slams in 2003. Absolute top of the mountain peak, maybe she reached higher. But still part of her general peak. Ugh, so many people want to diminish people's records (even a losing record). Weak era, weak draw, non-peak opponent, and on and on.
 
#46
She should have totally redone her service action. In her adult years it was horrible (it was better in her teens). She could not possibly have that strong a serve with that motion. While the serve itself is not nearly as bad, the motion is almost Dementieva like with the wayward toss way out in front, and the sideswipe of the pronating arm to catch up to the toss.

If she had a better serve she could have won atleast another couple slams.
She had a poor serve, and she should have worked to improve it, rather than her medium toss-then-club approach, which was not really a tactical weapon at all. Its as though she just wanted to get the ball back in play, but that's suicidal against great returners, or those who would take that kind of serve, then force their way to the net to finish it off.

And yes she should have come in more. She actually had both a fairly good punch/classic volley, in addition to a great swing volley. While she was powerful she didnt quite have that extra punch most times off the ground to hit too many clean winners against the top players as Davenport and the Williams and even Henin had, so finishing more off her near winners off the net.
Her "volley" was too "I learned this at tennis camp" and not at all natural, which is why she never won a ton of points with it. She was more about scrambling, then running headlong toward the net if someone delivered a drop shot, or actually made their own net play. Is one of the reasons her game was never going to see her win at Wimbledon.


Jennifer played well in that match so it’s not a “fake win” but definitely tainted
Tainted is putting it mildly, and she--and her entire player's box were absolutely despicable--they all knew a universe of deliberately skewed calls were going against Serena, but they (living up to a suggested reputation) did not care. It was a terrible match, but Capriati would live to regret that when Dementieva--with her "what the--?" serve, slaughtered Capriati 6-0 in their semifinal's first set, and even after Capriati fought back, it was not enough, as she was out played in the third, much to the delight of a sea of tennis fans who did not enjoy that Capriati family "grab whatever you can / screw fair play" show in the quarterfinals.
 
#47
She had a poor serve, and she should have worked to improve it, rather than her medium toss-then-club approach, which was not really a tactical weapon at all. Its as though she just wanted to get the ball back in play, but that's suicidal against great returners, or those who would take that kind of serve, then force their way to the net to finish it off.



Her "volley" was too "I learned this at tennis camp" and not at all natural, which is why she never won a ton of points with it. She was more about scrambling, then running headlong toward the net if someone delivered a drop shot, or actually made their own net play. Is one of the reasons her game was never going to see her win at Wimbledon.




Tainted is putting it mildly, and she--and her entire player's box were absolutely despicable--they all knew a universe of deliberately skewed calls were going against Serena, but they (living up to a suggested reputation) did not care. It was a terrible match, but Capriati would live to regret that when Dementieva--with her "what the--?" serve, slaughtered Capriati 6-0 in their semifinal's first set, and even after Capriati fought back, it was not enough, as she was out played in the third, much to the delight of a sea of tennis fans who did not enjoy that Capriati family "grab whatever you can / screw fair play" show in the quarterfinals.
Yeah. I always liked Jennifer but I lost some respect for her after that.
 
#48
I dont fault Capriati for the 2004 U.S Open quarter final. I fault the idiot chair umpire. While it would be nice if Capriati self reversed calls (and the chair umpire does not always allow that, and does not like a player overruling their overrule, even a ridiculous one, as it makes them look stupid) but it should not be an obligation for her to do so. As a Serena fan any of my anger at that mtach is resented to the chair umpire and some of the line calling, not Capriati. Thanks goodness we have Hawkeye today.

Capriati wound up with probably her most painful U.S Open semi defeat of all to Dementieva, ,so those who resent her for the Serena match, she more than payed any karma anyway.
 
#50

Dementieva had a losing record to Serena, and she never won a major, but her best effort was eliminating Capriati from the 2004 USO semifinal. At least she served a good purpose there.
 
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