I still remember that beautiful and infectious smile. The pure soda-pop voice and giggle of a 13-year-old still lingers in my mind.
From the beginning, I was a Jennifer Capriati fan. Like many Americans, looking for the next great thing to come along, Capriati fit the bill, and you couldn't help but be mesmerized by her engaging personality and her huge groundstrokes.
Over the years, she has taken us all on quite a journey. There have been more ups and downs than you would find on a typical roller-coaster ride. Through it all, her fans have always been loyal and supportive. Whether it's that million-dollar smile or simply the memory of her as that sweet little 13-year-old who took the tennis world by storm, something about Capriati has us always yearning for more.
Now she may need her fan support more than ever.
Injuries ended her career (although she still hasn't officially retired) in 2004 and she has struggled to deal with it ever since. She has stated in interviews that she has battled depression over the last few years.
Recently, Capriati "accidentally" overdosed on doctor-prescribed pills. She is doing fine now, but clearly is still searching to find who she is and move on from her tennis career.
I think the first thing she needs to understand is that her fans will always love and support her no matter what. Recently, many from the tennis world have reached out to her to let her know they are they for her, which hopefully will help. I also think Jen should officially retire. Maybe she can even do it at the U.S. Open, so that the fans can say goodbye and pay tribute to the great career she had.
Ther's no doubt in my mind she will go into the Hall of Fame. She could go in as early as next year with Andre Agassi, which I think would be only fitting, since their careers kind of parallelled each other.
The biggest thing Capriati needs to do is to let go of the past and simply figure out what it is she wants from life. We all struggle with this at some point and it's not an easy process, but I have no doubt she can find her way and I'm sure there are many things she can do to help fill that void left from playing the game.
I know all the fans simply want her to be happy and maybe that's one of the most important things Capriati needs to realize—while her career may be over, she will always be loved and never forgotten.