Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Dream Life Turned Hell

Jennifer Capriati was a genuine tennis champion and wonder-kid. At 13 years of age she became, for a short time, the youngest player to win the French Open junior title. Three weeks before her 14th birthday she turned professional--a young person with the world at her feet it seemed.

Sadly, the journey for Capriati was to turn sour with depression and crime well before she eventually fought back to claim the Women’s World Number One Singles title briefly in 2001 having won the Australian and French Opens that year. She also successfully defended her Australian Open title in 2002.

Her ‘comeback career’ is amazing considering the feats she’s managed. In her crowning moment, her third Grand Slam title, she saved four Championship points during the final--a world record for a player who eventually won the match. That demonstrates her spirit!

Unfortunately, she’s not been as successful with life as she’s been with her tennis. Quoted in a recent newspaper feature she lamented being trapped.

“I’ve only known one speed--100 miles per hour--and now I feel stuck in this place where I can’t move.”[1]

Jennifer Capriati reminds me of Michael Jackson. Both knew nothing of a normal childhood, and their talent was honed and milked as the world stood in awe of both these child prodigies.

It seems that life is harder to live than most think. Once the career of stardom is over, when then? Capriati continues:

“When I stopped playing, that’s when all this came crumbling down. If I don’t have [tennis], who am I? What am I? I was just alive because of this. I’ve had to ask, ‘Well, who is Jennifer? What if this is gone now?’ I can’t live off of this the rest of my life.”[2]

This poor child of a girl, still old enough to compete at thirty two, has no idea how to live life because without tennis she’s a nobody--at least to herself.

It’s reflecting on these things I feel extremely fortunate to have had a ‘normal,’ even banal life in comparison. For anyone who’s felt sorry for themselves for not having reached the dizzy heights of their chosen sport or profession, they can take some solace at mediocrity in comparison to the Capriati example.

I pray she finds her feet sooner rather than later.

[1] The West Australian, Saturday 24 January, 2009.
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jennifer_Capriati

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