Jennifer Capriati finally landed where her talent could have taken her long ago -- at No. 1.
She begins her reign as the new top-ranked player in women's tennis Monday, completing a spectacular comeback from personal problems that put her career on hold in the 1990s.
''It feels great. I haven't really digested it yet -- I think I'll have to see it on paper first,'' the 25-year-old Capriati said after learning she will replace Martina Hingis atop the computer rankings.
Hingis lost the top spot when she tore a ligament in her right ankle and quit during a semifinal Saturday against Lindsay Davenport at the Porsche Grand Prix in Filderstadt, Germany. Hingis needed to beat Davenport to stay at No. 1, which the 20-year-old Swiss player held for 209 weeks, the last 73 in a row.
In Monday's rankings, Capriati will have 4,867 points, Hingis 4,842. Capriati is the ninth player, and fourth American, to lead the women's computer rankings since their inception in 1975.
Capriati lost in the quarterfinals at Filderstadt, but she was rewarded in the complicated points system for doing better than last year (a first-round loss), while Hingis was penalized for faring more poorly (she won the event in 2000).
Davenport beat Justine Henin 7-5, 6-4 Sunday to win the Filderstadt title.
Now, with Hingis sidelined for six weeks, Capriati is a good bet to finish the year ranked first.
The move to No. 1 caps a season in Capriati won the first two Grand Slam championships of her career -- the Australian and French Opens. She also reached the semifinals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
Hingis, meanwhile, is in the worst slump of her career -- 13 tournaments without a title and no major championship since the 1999 Australian Open.
''I am proud to be able to come back from everything that's happened in my life, and just to enjoy tennis and play this well,'' Capriati said. ''I think it shows everybody that it's never too late to realize your talent, or your dream. If you think positive and believe in yourself, good things are going to come.''
Good things began early for Capriati.
When she was 14, Capriati became the youngest Grand Slam semifinalist ever at the 1990 French Open. She was also the youngest player to win a match at Wimbledon and -- also at 14 -- the youngest to crack the Top 10.
After making the semifinals at the 1991 U.S. Open, she reached a then-career-high No. 6 ranking. In 1992, she won the Olympic gold medal, beating Steffi Graf in the final.
But not long after, Capriati dropped off the tour in 1993 with drug and other personal problems. She came back in April 1996, and after a series of ups and downs, she was ranked as low as 267th two years later.
Capriati started her comeback in earnest last year and was on top of her game in 2001. By winning the Australian Open in January, she moved back into the Top 10 for the first time in seven years.
''Obviously, I've been more committed to the sport in the last few years,'' she said. ''And in Australia this year everything clicked for me, and since then I have been playing really well.''
''Of course, it's every kid's dream to be No. 1,'' she added. ''For me, I think you can appreciate it more when you are older.''
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