Every morning during the U.S. Open, Richard Pagliaro will take a look back at a significant match that took place on that calendar day.
September 6, 1991: Monica Seles d. Jennifer Capriati, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (3) (Semifinals)
Two of the purest ball-strikers ever stalked the baseline, trading titanic shots in a match that signalled a seismic shift in women's tennis, ushering in the start of the power-based baseline game.
It was a ferocious semifinal that left many in attendance breathless watching the ruthless shotmaking of power and depth these teenagers unleashed. Watch the video above and witness the resolve, power, and determined grunts both women brought to the court. Seles was a sniper so skilled at taking the ball on the rise, she sometimes seemed to be half-volleying shots off the baseline.
Jimmy Connors, who made a remarkable U.S. Open semifinal run in 1991 while ranked No. 174, once said the two-handed titan's fighting spirit, willingness to play even closer to the lines on pivotal points, and aggressive baseline style reminded him of himself.
The 15-year-old Capriati entered the match full of confidence: She snapped Martina Navratilova’s run of nine consecutive Wimbledon finals with a quarterfinal upset at SW19, then scored her first win over world No. 1 Seles, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (2), in a San Diego final that featured the two youngest finalists in the Open era. Capriati, whose athleticism, agility, and speed were some of her most underrated assets, served for this match before Seles stormed back. Seles would go on to win the Open, her third Grand Slam crown in three major appearances during an outstanding ’91 season.
In a poignant moment after one of the most gut-wrenching losses of her career, Capriati paused to sign a few autographs, a classy move that endeared the teen, born in New York City, to many locals in attendance.
The rivals were reunited on court again last month: Seles delivered the introduction speech for Capriati’s induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I.