Even if you are Jennifer Capriati and everyone is wishing you well upon your return to tennis, it is of little comfort. Especially if you are Jennifer Capriati, little is easy anymore.
Not even the game.
In her first-round match Saturday at the State Farm Evert Cup, Capriati looked shaky in defeating Rita Grande of Italy, 6-4, 6-1, in 56 minutes, on a warm and windy day at the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort.
Coming back to the WTA tour will be a dicey endeavor for Capriati, but she has found at least one kindred spirit. Capriati practiced with Steffi Graf recently in Boca Raton, Fla., and two of the tour's most reticent personalities seemed to hit it off.
"It was a very good practice," Capriati said. "It was great hanging out with her and being around her. She's a nice, down-to-earth and very cool person. I had a good time."
Capriati, 19, seems ready to spend more fruitful weekends on the tour, although her comfort level appears to be minimal. She was polite but no more in a postmatch news conference. Capriati is understandably skittish with the media, but even as she cringed, waiting for the expected questions about her personal life, none came.
Her return will require adjustment by all parties, not the least of whom will be her opponents.
Capriati appeared wobbly in the first set, playing at a brisk pace and missing with ground strokes. Whether it was a lack of timing or a surplus of nerves, Capriati seemed uncomfortable.
Whatever it was, it was contagious. Neither player served well. There were 11 service breaks in the match; Capriati held serve only two times in the first set, and, even as she settled down in the second set, her first serve never found the mark. She got in only 42% of her first serves.
Grande's already minimal resistance eroded after the first set.
"I was pressuring her," Capriati said. "I got into my groove."
That meant that Capriati was finding her range from the backcourt. Grande singled out Capriati's two-handed backhand as the most lethal of the day. Capriati had 20 winners to Grande's three.
For Capriati, it was another step on a long road.
Venus Williams, 15, lost her first-round match to 10th-seeded Julie Halard-Decugis of France, 6-2, 6-4. In other matches, No. 5 Chanda Rubin overpowered Nicole Bradtke of Australia, 6-2, 6-0; No. 6 Brenda Schultz-McCarthy of the Netherlands defeated Jolene Watanabe, 6-4, 6-4; Jing Qian Yi of China upset No. 12 Zina Garrison Jackson, 0-6, 6-1, 6-4; and Ai Sugiyama of Japan upset No. 16 Lisa Raymond, 7-5, 3-6, 6-4.