Capriati, Kuerten join Tennis Hall of Fame

Published July 14, 2012

| Sports Network

Three-time Grand Slam champion and former world No. 1 Jennifer Capriati and three-time French Open winner and former top-ranked star Gustavo Kuerten were inducted to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport on Saturday.

Capriati was a 14-time WTA winner with major championships at the Australian Open in 2001 and 2002, as well as the French Open in 2001. She also captured Olympic gold at the 1992 Barcelona Games and was the No. 1 player in the world for 18 weeks, completing her career with a match record of 430-176.

"It's humbling, it's gratifying, and it makes me so incredibly proud to be here today," Capriati said.

The 36-year-old Capriati's career included notable accomplishments and controversy.

The New York City native made her much-ballyhooed WTA debut in 1990 at the tender age of 13 and reached the final at her first event in Boca Raton, Fla. Capriati was the youngest semifinalist at that year's French Open after turning 14 and also won her first title in Puerto Rico later that year.

More success followed the next couple of years, highlighted by a quarterfinal win over defending champion Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon in 1991 and the Olympic gold medal the following year.

Capriati won six titles between 1990-93, then took most of the next two years off. She played just once in 1994 and not at all the following year while struggling through personal issues that included arrests for shoplifting and possession of marijuana.

A slow comeback began in 1996 and she ended a six-year title drought in 1999 before a strong 2000 campaign set Capriati up for her best season ever in 2001.

Capriati captured her first Grand Slam crown with a victory over world No. 1 Martina Hingis in the Australian Open final, then beat Kim Clijsters for the title at the French Open in the spring. A 19-match Grand Slam winning streak ended with a loss to Justine Henin in the Wimbledon semifinals and she also lost in the semis at the U.S. Open.

After becoming the top-ranked player in the world in October 2001, Capriati began 2002 with another win over Hingis in the Australian Open final.

"The timing of this is very profound for me on such a personal level," Capriati said. "Tennis has given me so much and challenged me in so many ways. It has given me great joy on and off the court, as well as a lot of pain on and off the court. But it has taught me what overcoming fear is all about. It has taught me what hard work and commitment means. It has taught me what self love is. It has taught me what acceptance and forgiveness can bring."

Injuries began taking their toll in 2003 and she stopped playing at the end of the 2004 season.

Kuerten, the popular clay-court-loving Brazilian star better known as "Guga," ascended to the top of the men's rankings in December of 2000 and tallied his French Open titles in 1997, 2000 and 2001. He was the first-ever South American to become a year-end No. 1.

The now-35-year-old Kuerten was a relative unknown, ranked 66th in the world at the time, when he ran the table at Roland Garros as a 20-year-old in '97. He became the second-lowest-ranked man to capture a major title in the process.

Guga captured 20 career singles titles and was a runner-up on nine occasions. In addition to his French Open championships, he reached the quarterfinals at the French Open in 1999 and 2004, and was a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon in 1999, at the U.S. Open in 1999 and 2001, and at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000.

He also received the ATP's Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award in 2003. Inspired by his late brother, Guilherme, who had cerebral palsy, Kuerten opened the Institute Guga Kuerten in 2000 to help disabled people. The institute is located in Kuerten's hometown of Florianopolis, Brazil.

Kuerten was introduced at the induction ceremony by his mother, who described her tennis star son as "a man who succeeded in life by challenging his own limits and also his socioeconomic impossibilities."

"It is an honor to watch my mother talk about me a little bit," Kuerten said. "I always get embarrassed when she talks good things about me. Not today at least. I was very honored."

Capriati and Kuerten, inducted in the Recent Player category, were joined in the Class of 2012 by Spanish tennis great and 1975 U.S. Open champ Manuel Orantes, in the Masters Player category; tennis administrator and promoter Mike Davies, in the Contributor category; and late wheelchair tennis star Randy Snow, who passed away two years ago and was honored posthumously on Saturday.

The 63-year-old former world No. 2 Orantes, who starred in the 1970s and '80s, defeated top-seeded Jimmy Connors to capture the 1975 U.S. Open title and played an instrumental role in Spain's Davis Cup efforts for many years. The Spaniard tallied 32 career singles and 22 doubles titles on the ATP circuit.

Davies, a former player who currently serves as CEO of the New Haven Open at Yale, was recognized for his immense contributions to growing the sport of tennis worldwide. An influential, behind-the-scenes executive in the tennis world, the Welshman has enjoyed a 40-plus-year career in tennis promotion and administration, with achievements ranging from forging the first, highly- successful television/tennis contracts and negotiating major sponsorships to introducing the colored tennis ball to the game.

Snow, born in 1959, was a wheelchair tennis superstar and three-time Paralympic medalist. He is only the second wheelchair tennis player in history to be honored with induction to the Tennis Hall of Fame, joining Brad Parks, who was the pioneering founder of the sport.

The Texas native Snow captured 22 major tournaments during his career.

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