Capriati falls in third round

Updated: March 29, 2004, 9:06 AM ET
By Cynthia Faulkner | ESPN.com

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- In hindsight, Jennifer Capriati was more prophetic than she would have liked.

"Even the first round is going to be difficult for me," Capriati said before the Nasdaq-100 Open began.

Well, she had a bye in the first round, but you get what she meant. Although she survived her first match, her third round turned out to be her downfall Sunday. Facing Eleni Daniilidou, who had beaten her earlier this year in Dubai, Capriati got off to a quick 2-0 lead that evaporated even more quickly as Daniilidou won 6-2. Down 3-0 in the second set, Capriati began to fight back.

She started being more aggressive. Even approaching the net. It wasn't enough, and she lost the second set 6-4.

Looking tired and disappointed, Capriati said afterward that she just never really found her game.

"I just -- I don't think I was there today," Capriati said. "I just felt like I was off."

She's been off for some time now. The three-time Grand Slam winner's only victory since the 2002 Australian Open was courtesy of a default in the final of New Haven last year. Add to that, trying to recover from a back injury -- and she just isn't the speedy Jenny everyone loves to root for.

Although she says she's following the same basic fitness and training program that fueled her amazing comeback at Australia in 2001, her chubby stomach now protrudes farther than her chest. She struggles to reach balls the old Capriati would have pounced on.

"As soon as I started, I missed some easy shots," she said. "I just, I guess, got a bit negative after that."

Capriati is also facing the same problem the Williams sisters are encountering: new faces, and better games than expected.

"I mean, I played her many times before and I've always had a good record, except the last time," Capriati said. "I guess that now that without playing, you know, it's kind of -- you lose that aggressiveness."

Daniilidou, Greece's only hope to win an Olympic medal at home this summer, is a serve-and-volleyer, who won her third WTA title in Auckland earlier this year.

"The key was that I was really aggressive and I was two steps into the court," Daniilidou said. "I think she is not -- she didn't play her best tennis. I mean, everyone knows it's very tough to come back after a big injury."

"Right now, I'm just disappointed with the way I played," Capriati said. "I really felt like I was playing well coming into this tournament, so &"

Cynthia Faulkner is the tennis editor for ESPN.com.

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