Jennifer Capriati turned pro at 13, had her own video game before depression and drug issues but eventually won three Grand Slam titles

As wonderkids go, Jennifer Capriati may just be the top of the list.

To turn professional at just 13, in any sport, is a remarkable achievement, but her story serves as a cautionary tale of getting too much too young.

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Capriati was a professional at the age of just 13

There were plenty of highs along the way, which included three Grand Slam titles and an Olympic Gold medal, but also many lows.

Capriati was groomed for success from an early age with her father hitting balls with her when she was just three and started lessons at the age of five in Florida with Jimmy Evert, father of tennis legend Chris Evert.

Her talents were obvious and she joined Rick Macci’s famed International Tennis Academy in Florida, with the likes of the Williams sisters and Andy Roddick all spending time under his tutelage.

WTA rules meant she couldn’t turn pro until the month before her 14th birthday, but already had a million dollar contract with Diadora.

She even made the final of that tournament in Boca Raton in 1990 and led to a famous appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated that said: “And she’s only 13!”

Just a few months later, she made the semi-final of the French Open and the following year reached the final four at both Wimbledon and her home Slam at the US Open.

GamerCityNews aecf4baf-83ca-4088-81b9-309358a9bab4 Jennifer Capriati turned pro at 13, had her own video game before depression and drug issues but eventually won three Grand Slam titles

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Capriati was arrested in 1994 and the story leaked to the press


The biggest success of her fledgling career came at the 1992 Olympics when she won a gold medal when she was just 16.

Capriati defeated 22-time Grand Slam winner Steffi Graf in the final, who four years previous won the ‘Golden Slam’ of all four majors and the Olympics in the same year.

The teenager also had a video game named after her for the Sega Genesis in 1992, called Jennifer Capriati Tennis.

By 1993, signs of burnout started and ended up with her leaving the WTA tour that year to finish High School.

She received a citation from Tampa police for shoplifting a cheap ring, with the story being leaked to the media.

GamerCityNews Capriati Jennifer Capriati turned pro at 13, had her own video game before depression and drug issues but eventually won three Grand Slam titles

Capriati even had a video game named after her

GamerCityNews martina-hingis-set-serving-match-789434395 Jennifer Capriati turned pro at 13, had her own video game before depression and drug issues but eventually won three Grand Slam titles

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Capriati eventually delivered on her wonderkid promise and won the Australian Open twice

Then in 1994, when she was 18, she was charged with misdemeanour marijuana possession and subsequently entered a drug counselling programme.

Capriati gave an interview with the New York Times opening up on her depression and mental health issues.

“I really was not happy with myself, my tennis, my life, my parents, my coaches, my friends,” she said. “When I looked in my mirror, I actually saw this distorted image: I was so ugly and fat, I just wanted to kill myself, really.”

She eventually returned to tennis in 1996, but it took a while before she was back to her best.

In 2001, nearly 11 years after she broke through as a teenager, she won her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.

A few months later, she backed this up by winning the French Open and become world number one that same year.

Capriati enjoyed a remarkable run of results of Grand Slams, reaching the semi-finals at both Wimbledon and the US Open, before defending her Australian Open title.

GamerCityNews jennifer-capriati-usa-celebrates-trophy-789434954 Jennifer Capriati turned pro at 13, had her own video game before depression and drug issues but eventually won three Grand Slam titles

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Capriati also won the French Open in 2001

Injuries plagued her later career and by 2004 one of the most remarkable tennis careers was over.

In 2012, while still only 36, she was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame.

Her struggles continued after her retirement and in 2007 opened up on her depression in a rare interview.

She told the New York Daily News that ‘I can’t even stand my own skin’.

Capriati was admitted to hospital due to a drug overdose in 2010, which her family said was an accident involving prescription medication rather than an attempt to take her own life.

Then in 2013, she was arrested on charges of battery and stalking, following complaints by her then boyfriend. The charges were dropped on the condition she do community service.

Capriati remains firmly out of the limelight after a fascinating career that saw her deservedly counted among the best of her generation.



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