Originally created 05/11/04

Serena Williams, Capriati gearing up for majors

ROME -- Serena Williams and Jennifer Capriati are hoping their bodies and games will be healthy just at the right time: for the French Open and Wimbledon.

Williams' left knee is feeling good again, while Capriati just registered her best performance of the year, reaching the semifinals at the German Open. Capriati also is working with a new coach, in addition to her father.

Both are among the eight top-seeded players at the Italian Open, so they had Monday off.

Williams won at the Foro Italico in 2002, using that victory as a stepping stone for her "Serena Slam," a streak of four straight wins in majors through the 2003 Australian Open.

After winning Wimbledon last year, however, Williams had knee surgery and missed eight months. She came back to the tour in March and won right away, at the Nasdaq-100 Open. Two tournaments later, her knee began to bother her again, and she pulled out of last month's event in Charleston, S.C.

Now Williams says she is pain-free again.

"For the first time in the past two weeks, the first tournament in eight-nine months, I actually was running and jumping for balls and actually running instead of jogging without realizing it," she said. "I told my dad, 'Oh, wait a minute. I'm not even thinking about it."'

Williams is thinking about the upcoming Grand Slams.

"It's a huge inspiration, especially Roland Garros. I'm just excited to be there and compete again," she said. "And obviously I love Wimbledon, so I really can't wait to go to London and compete."

Capriati is excited, too.

"This is the highlight of the year," she said. "I'm on the rise and getting back to playing good tennis."

Capriati's run in Berlin, where she lost to eventual champion Amelie Mauresmo on Saturday, marked her first tournament with new coach Heinz Gunthardt, who used to work with Steffi Graf.

"I've just been looking to change things and kind of explore my options," Capriati said. "There are a lot of people that know a lot about tennis and have good things to say."

Capriati's father, Stefano, has overseen her game most of her career.

"It's hard to see things when you're close with your family, or to listen, because there's no separation," Capriati said.

"To me, it looks more like putting together a team. My parents will always be there - they give me the support, the love that I need. It's just adding another dimension to the team."

She hopes to work with Gunthardt at least through Wimbledon.

Capriati plays her first match in Rome on Wednesday against Klara Koukalova or Maria Vento-Kabchi. Williams opens Tuesday against Maria Sanchez-Lorenzo, a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 winner against Sandrine Testud on Monday.

The only seeded player to lose Monday was No. 15 Magdalena Maleeva, beaten 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 by Dally Randriantefy.

In other first-round matches, ninth-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Alicia Molik 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, No. 10 Silvia Farina Elia got by Barbara Schett 6-4, 6-4, and No. 14 Francesca Schiavone eliminated Nicole Pratt 6-2, 6-3.

Also, Samantha Reeves beat Lisa Raymond 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 in an all-American contest.


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