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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Capriati Returns, Silent but Assured

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania -- Since the announcement last week that she would return to the professional tennis tour here this week, everyone in the tennis world has been talking about Jennifer Capriati -- except Jennifer Capriati.


Capriati, 18, has avoided reporters since arriving in Philadelphia this week in advance of her match Wednesday night against Anke Huber -- her first professional competition since she lost in the first round of last year's U.S. Open.


In the 14 months since that loss, Capriati, who turned professional at 14 and was already ranked in the top 10 by age 15, has been portrayed as a poster child for all that ails professional tennis.


Burned out by the pressures of the pro circuit, Capriati began a downward spiral last December with a shoplifting arrest (charges were later dropped); it culminated in her arrest on drug possession charges in Florida in May.


In between, it was revealed that she had twice spent time in drug rehabilitation centers.


Capriati is being accompanied by Jose Higueras, who has been her hitting partner for the last four weeks in California.


"All I can say is, since I've been with her she seems to be really enjoying it," Higueras said. "She seems like she's been having fun. I wasn't around her before, but she has a very good attitude right now."


In practice Tuesday, Capriati showed some of the power that made her a top 10 player in 1991, when she made the semifinals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.


"The strokes are there. I don't think you forget how to hit your strokes," Higueras said.


Huber, who will be forced to play the role of the heavy Wednesday night, put Capriati's return in a larger context.


"Without (Monica) Seles and Capriati, there has been something missing on the women's tour," she said. "With at least one of them back, it is going to be good for the sport."