PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 09: FRENCH OPEN 2001, Finale, Paris; Siegerin Jennifer CAPRIATI/USA mit Pokal (Photo by Henri Szwarc/Bongarts/Getty Images)

The Capriati-Clijsters Epic Was 16 Years Ago Today

PARIS, France - Having already made a dream run to her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open earlier that year, Jennifer Capriati made another dream come true in Paris on June 9, 2001, winning her first French Open title - but only after one of the most dramatic finales in the history of the sport.

Playing her first Grand Slam final, an 18-year-old Kim Clijsters - who had outdone a 19-year-old Justine Henin in an all-Belgian semifinal - came out swinging against Capriati, ripping huge serves and groundstrokes fearlessly for a 6-1 1-0 lead. Capriati rebounded, taking the second set and going up an early break in the third, but Clijsters broke back and that third set took on a life of its own.

The two went into a holding pattern for a while, going back and forth - even trading breaks again - and Clijsters coming within just points of taking her first major title. But Capriati was just too tough, eventually blasting one last inside out forehand winner to close out the marathon, 1-6 6-4 12-10.

It was the longest third set in the history of French Open women’s finals.

“I was fighting until the end, fighting for my life out there,” Capriati said afterwards.

“I just wanted to win so bad. Afterward, everything paid off - all the fight.”

Capriati would extend her Grand Slam winning streak of 2001 through the semifinals of Wimbledon, where she fell to the other Belgian, Henin - but she will always have that 2001 French Open title.

“It’s a surreal feeling. I can’t explain it. Just to be standing there, all the people clapping for me, just being happy. I feel genuine happiness from the people. I’m looking at my family. It was just amazing.

“I mean the past, it’s whatever. Didn’t think about it. It’s like here and now. That’s it.”

And a day later, a sentimental win at Roland Garros from another one of the all-time greats:

Read more articles by John Berkok


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