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Capriati Wins Her Debut in Italian Open

From Associated Press

Teen-age sensation Jennifer Capriati made an impressive European professional debut today, overpowering qualifier Leona Laskova of Czechoslovakia, 6-0, 6-3, in the first round of the Italian Open tennis tournament.

Playing on center court of the Foro Italico, Capriati, 14, seeded 12th in the tournament, needed only 50 minutes to win. After trouncing Laskova in the first set, Capriati fell behind 2-1 in the second.

“In the second set, I lost a bit of concentration at the beginning, and she started playing better,” Capriati said.

Capriati’s lapse did not last long. Serving at 1-2, she sharpened her powerful ground strokes and resumed hitting winners down the line and cross court from the baseline to win five of the next six games.

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In matches involving seeded players, No. 11 Helen Kelesi of Canada defeated Jo-Anne Faull of Australia, 6-4, 6-1, and No. 9 Laura Gildemeister of Peru beat Nicole Provis of Australia, 6-2, 7-5.

Unseeded American Lori McNeil lost to Czechoslovakia’s Radka Zrubakova, 7-6, 6-2.

Since turning pro in March, Capriati has reached the finals of two of three tournaments, compiling a 13-3 record and moving up to No. 25 in the world rankings.

With her youthful looks, ready smile and Italian parentage, Capriati already has replaced defending champion Gabriela Sabatini in the hearts of Rome’s emotional tennis fans.

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A guest on a Sunday afternoon TV talk show, Capriati described herself as a “very determined” player with talent.

“I don’t think it’s luck,” she said, assuring the show’s host she wasn’t afraid to play the big names. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to hit the ball.”

Martina Navratilova, beaten by Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in Munich on Saturday, is seeded No. 1 in the tournament.


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