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TENNIS / THOMAS BONK : Excellent Tour de France Ends for Capriati

It’s over now, a 14-year-old’s assault on the City of Light that extended well beyond the clay tennis courts at Roland Garros Stadium.

Jennifer Capriati took the town by storm and quickly became a crowd favorite. She reached the semifinals of her first Grand Slam, where she lost to Monica Seles, and was called “La petite Jennifer” in the newspapers.

Little Jennifer made sure she had a big time off the courts, too.

She and her family stayed at a hotel just off the Champs-Elysees near the Arc de Triomphe. Their favorite restaurant was Pizza Vesuvio, just around the corner.

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Shopping meant suede and leather in shops along the Champs. As Jennifer tried on a pair of shoes in one store, a man walked in and proposed to her. Jennifer looked him up and down, then said: “No way!”

The Capriatis arrived at Angelina’s, opposite the Tuileries on Rue de Rivoli, but were turned away because it was two minutes before closing, thus missing out on the world’s best hot chocolate.

Jennifer and her 10-year-old brother, Steven, visited Notre Dame for the benefit of an ESPN crew. Jennifer and Steven were read passages from Victor Hugo’s book, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Steven could relate, pointing out there is now a video game featuring a Hunchback.

When they arrived at Notre Dame on the Isle de Cite, Jennifer and Steven looked quizzically at one another and said, almost at the same time, “Where’s the football field?”

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Then they stopped outside Les Invalides, a vast building erected in the 1670s by Louis XIV as a home for old soldiers. It is also the final resting place for Napoleon, or “the little dead dude,” as Jennifer said.

Steven was impressed with the place because he recognized it from the movie “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” Mary Carillo of ESPN has since dubbed Capriati’s French Open experience “Jennifer Capriati’s Excellent Adventure.”

Jennifer’s new favorite song, by the way, is MC Hammer’s “You Can’t Touch This,” which somehow seems appropriate.

Out-on-the-limb Dept.: From Monica Seles, assessing quarterfinal opponent Manuela Maleeva, whose sisters Katerina and Magdalena are also tennis pros: “Manuela is certainly one of the best of the Maleeva sisters.”

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Wimbledon update: Last week, Boris Becker began hitting with Coach Bob Brett on the practice courts on the Wimbledon site, the All England Club. Within 15 minutes, a security guard escorted them out of the club.

Becker had violated a rule that All England Club members could play only with other club members. Becker, a three-time Wimbledon champion, is an honorary member, but Brett is not.

British press reports indicated that Becker was not amused.

Mad Mac? London’s Daily Mirror reported that John McEnroe has confessed to being a “maniac,” thus confirming the suspicions of his longtime antagonists in the British sporting public.

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McEnroe is quoted in an updated biography--"John McEnroe, Taming the Talent"--written by British author Richard Evans:

“It is obvious I have a problem and I need help. I’m seriously thinking about quitting for good. I just don’t know if I can go on like this. I’m worried what I might do on the court.”

They will see for themselves at Wimbledon. Citing a shoulder injury, McEnroe has withdrawn from six tournaments since last playing in February, but he is still in the field for Wimbledon.

Unemployment line: Gabriela Sabatini, who lost to Jana Novotna in the French Open round of 16, has fired coach Angel Gimenez.

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Who’s on first: Selection of the U.S. Davis Cup team that will play Austria in the semifinals in September is sure to be even more controversial than usual.

Captain Tom Gorman has not yet asked anyone to play, which isn’t making at least one potential candidate very happy.

“Tom’s been kind of wishy-washy about it,” Aaron Krickstein said. “If he wants me to play, I think he should name the team by the end of the tournament so I can plan my schedule.”

Krickstein, who won both his matches against Czechoslovakia in the quarterfinals, may not be among Gorman’s first choices. Speculation centers on Michael Chang, if Gorman can persuade him to play, and Andre Agassi, if Gorman can end their squabble.

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The doubles team is likely to be Rick Leach and Jim Pugh, although clay is not their best surface. They lost in the third round of the French Open and in the first round last year.

The team of Jim Grabb and Patrick McEnroe is a distant possibility. Last year’s French Open doubles champions, they lost in the semifinals Thursday.


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