#2 Match That Changed Women's Tennis

Monica Seles def Jennifer Capriati 6-3 3-6 7-6   Semifinals 9/6/91

My first time at the Open and it turned out to be a day that neither I nor the tennis world would ever forget.

Through work connections, my dad got corporate tickets to the women’s semifinals on Friday 9/6/91.  I remember watching the Capriati/Sabatini quarterfinal match on television and when Capriati beat the defending champion I jumped up and down so excited that I would get to see my favorite player live. Capriati had beaten Seles 4–6, 6–1, 7–6 in a tournament a few weeks earlier, winning a close match in a third set tie-break. I was hoping she could do it again today.

What a match this turned out to be. It was described by a NY Times writer at the time as "a slugfest conducted by a pair of teenagers whose strokes defied age, gender and the legal speed limit.” It was “a ferocious affair in which neither player showed an interest in hitting anything except high-stakes winners.” Legendary tennis commentator Bud Collins described it as "artillery bombardment."

Late into the afternoon, Capriati and Seles pounded the ball in a closely contested match with Capriati twice having the opportunity to serve it out. Instead, it went to a deciding set tie-break, one of the most nerve-wracking parts of the sport of tennis in that the match is won or lost by literally just one or two points. This time Seles was the winner to my utter devastation.

Nowadays, tennis experts consider this match to have ushered in the beginning of the power era, altering the direction of women’s tennis and changing it into what it is today. Had I known this at the time it might have made Capriati’s loss a big easier to take but I was in tears the whole way home. The loss hit Capriati hard too, she struggled with her tennis and other personal problems but she returned to the tour several years later and won the 2001 Australian Open, her first Grand Slam. She added to her resume with the French Open 2001 and Australian Open 2002 but unfortunately never made it past the US Open semis after being just two points away in two different matches.

Despite my unhappiness with the outcome, looking back I am so fortunate to have been able to witness this moment in tennis history in person. I can’t believe it’s been 27 years since then!