Capriati hangs on at Sanex to keep chances of ending year on top

Tuesday, October 30th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MUNICH, Germany (AP) _ Jennifer Capriati kept alive her hopes of ending the year ranked No. 1 Tuesday, charging back to beat Magdalena Maleeva in three sets Tuesday at the Sanex Championships.

Capriati, who could be passed in the rankings by Lindsay Davenport at the year's final major event, struggled for 1 hour and 29 minutes and wasted two match points in the 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory.

Capriati, who wasted two match points, leads Davenport by only a few points in the rankings and her American rival has been red-hot, having swept three titles in as many weeks.

The event, which brings together the highest 16 ranked players, is being played in Munich's Olympiahalle for the first time, ending its historic relationship with Madison Square Garden. It had been played in New York since 1978.

Capriati was the first to play the event in its new home and it appeared at the start she might be headed to a loss certain to cost her the newly-won No. 1 ranking.

Maleeva, who has come back from career-threatening shoulder and arm injuries, had Capriati scrambling after drop shots and hard valley as she grabbed the first set.

After Capriati picked up her game and rolled through the second set, she needed to fight off two break points when she trailed Maleeva 2-1 in the final set. She didn't take control of the match until she whipped a forehand return down the line to break the Bulgarian's serve for a 3-2 lead.

Capriati took the top spot on Oct. 15, passing Martina Hingis to become the tour's ninth No. 1 when the Swiss player retired with an injury.

But her short reign would have come to an end if she had fallen to Maleeva in the first round and Davenport advanced into the final.

Now Davenport, who faces South Africa's Amanda Coetzer on Wednesday, will have to win the event if Capriati wins her second match and reaches the semifinals.

In other matches Tuesday, Serena Williams faces Italy's Farina-Elia while Amelie Mauresmo plays fellow French player Sandrine Testud and another Frenchwoman, Nathalie Tauziat tackles Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario.

The field was depleted when Hingis and Venus Williams dropped out with an injury and Monica Seles continued to refuse to play in Germany after being assaulted in Hamburg in 1993.