IS NO. 371, CAPRA, GOING TO BE THE NEW OUDIN?

Lovely Beatrice Capra

Lovely Beatrice Capra

NEW YORK – “…and so here I am…”

Where is “here”?

For the young American speaker, Beatrice Capra, the word had geographical and geneological meaning.  She was very unexpectedly taking up space in the third round of the year’s last major tennis championship, the US Open.  Wearing  a No. 371 ranking, she sent No. 20 Arazane Rezai home to France, 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, yesterday.

That “here” was the steaming, sticky Grandstand Court. There, for 2 ¼ hours, hardly recognized 18-year-old Capra out-dueled the seasoned Rezai, who had won Madrid in May over Justine Henin, Jelly Jankovic and Venus.

There was another tennis court that figures as a “here”.  But, let Beatrice – called Trisee – tell the story:

“My father, Giovani Capra, an Italian raised in Monza, moved to America to enter business, and became a citizen.  My mother, Laurie, a good college player at South Florida, was teaching tennis.  My father wanted to take lessons.  So they met up…and here I am.”

And here they are in Ellicott City, Maryland, population 61,000.  “Small and dull, but nice,” she says.  “In the midst of farmland, about an hour from Washington.”

But, how you gonna keep ‘em down on the farm after they’ve heard folks in a tennis arena shouting and cheering their name?

Summer evening at the US Open

Summer evening at the US Open

Trisee heard all that joyous noise in May as she won the Italian Junior title at Milan.  Suddenly she was a two-country heroine.

Ubaldo Scanagatta, a leading Italian sports writer, led the journalistic pack descending on Capra yesterday.  “She has an Italian passport,” he gleamed.  “One of us.  Maybe we should buy her to play for Italy.”

Not much chance, though she was flattered. Her long dark hair fluttered, her hazel eyes were lively, the smile an ace.  It was, after all, a day she called “unreal, one of the best moments of my life,” well beyond anything she had imagined.

“I didn’t do well in the US juniors this year, and lost in the qualifying of the WTA [big league] tournaments I entered.  But then I was invited to a wild card playoff, and had a  burst of confidence.  It was different.  Instead of being handed a wild card, I had to win the playoff – to earn my way into the Open.  That made it mean more to my confidence.”

Sunset at the US Open

Sunset at the US Open

Here she is now, low lady among the 32 survivors, and up against the 2006 champion, No. 17 Maria Sharapova, a high lady six inches taller at 6-2.

“This is amazing.  I admire Maria, her mental toughness,” says Capra.  “I’ve never met her.  But I like to think I’m mentally tough, too.  I’ll stay in the math until the end.”

She is a fan and friend of the ex-Cinderella, Melanie Oudin. “I really look up to Melanie.  I watched every second, every match of hers as she got to the quarters last year.  She pushed all of us Americans to do better.”

What about college?  She’s thinking about it, and is still eligible to compete in the US Open Juniors next week.  What does the Queen of Groundstroke, Chris Evert, advise her as housemother of the Evert Academy where she trains in Boca Raton, Florida?

Evert responded by e-mail: “Capra is a fierce competitor, great composure, a work in progress.  We’re trying to get her to go for her shots, to dictate more.  She comes from a great family, and is a pleasure to work with.”

But what if she becomes the New Oudin, and takes out Sharapova as Melanie did a year ago?  It’s a heady thought.

Intense sunset clouds over New York City

Intense sunset clouds over New York City

Rezai, yesterday’s casualty, praises “the completeness of Capra’s game.  But she had nothing to lose.  And she had the crowd as I do in Parias.  As the American she may have it again against Maria – but need more than that.”

Importantly, Capra won the needed points. She rebounded from 2-4 to win the first set, then faded, but recovered to pocket the last two games as Rezai threatened.

And here she is.

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