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Capriati Wins Strasbourg Open

Jennifer Capriati won her first event in six years Saturday when she defeated Russia's Elena Likhovtseva in the final of the $190,000 Strasbourg Open.

The 23-year-old American took 59 minutes to down the second-seeded Likhovtseva 6-1, 6-3, completing a straight-sets sweep of the tournament.

On her way to the final, Capriati defeated Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand, sixth-seeded Cara Black of Zimbabwe and top-seeded Nathalie Tauziat of France. She lost only one game to Tauziat, after completing her rain-delayed match with Black earlier in the day.

The victory was a dramatic, positive step in Capriati's comeback and boosted her prospects for next week's French Open, where she plays Spain's Virginia Ruano-Pascual in the first round.

"It's great, I'm thrilled," Capriati said. "I beat Elena at the '96 Lipton, but from then and now there is a difference in my game. I'm moving better and I'm in good physical condition."

Capriati said she was excited to win again after so long.

"I've had many steps in my comeback and this is just another step," she said. "Hopefully, I will keep going forward with more wins. Hopefully, this is a start of good things. This is definitely a confidence booster."

"Mostly, I would like to improve mentally on the court as far as being stronger and able to finish out matches against top players. I have to continue to train myself not to give in. Before, I used to go on the court and think I would lose. Now I feel I can win matches."

The final was the first for Capriati since losing at Sydney, Australia, in 1997. It was at Sydney where she also won her last title in 1993.

After that, Capriati's career went into a tailspin because of off-court problems including a brush with drugs. She has struggled with her game during several attempted comebacks and came into Strasbourg ranked No. 113 in the world.

In 1990, the 14-year-old Capriati became the youngest player ever to be ranked in the top 10, and two years later she won an Olympic gold medal at Barcelona. She made it as high as No. 6 in the world before her problems sent her to the tennis sidelines.

"I think I'm a better player now than when I was in the Top 10 because my maturity level has grown and I'm smarter on the court in some ways," she said. "But I still wish that I was younger."

The victory was Capriati's sixth career WTA Tour title and was worth $27,500.

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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