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Crowning glory for Capriati.

JENNIFER CAPRIATI staged a dramatic fightback to defend her Australian Open women's title by defeating Martina Hingis 4-6 7-6 (9-7) 6-2 in Melbourne.

The American number one seed saved four championship points in a tense second set before finally overpowering her Swiss opponent.

Hingis, the third seed, survived a spell of the jitters to take the opening set in 33 minutes. After leading 3-0 and 5-1 and blowing a set point on her own serve at 5-3, she finally ground down Capriati by breaking the American's serve for a third time.

Capriati was incensed by a dubious call in the second game of the second set and was lucky to escape censure after firing off a volley of obscenities as she called for the line judge to be replaced.

Back on the court, Hingis was looking far more relaxed as she raced into a 4-0 lead, giving the American the runaround as she dominated with some superb baseline strokes.

A combination of Capriati's guts and Hingis' nerves saw the American battle back to force a tie break, however, in which she saved three match points.

A fourth went begging at 7-6 in the tie break and Capriati eventually prevailed 9-7 after a further 65 minutes of action.

Both players were given a 10-minute break ahead of the deciding set due to the soaring temperatures.

That was never going to be enough for Hingis to regain her composure, however, and she surrendered tamely, with Capriati converting her first championship point at 40-15 when already 5-2 up.

Capriati, who claimed her third Grand Slam title, having also won the French Open last year, said: "I was struggling on the court but it's tremendous to retain my title and I can't wait to come back again next year.

"Martina is a great champion and even though I've beaten her the last two times here, it's going to take a long time to get to her status."

Hingis, who has now been beaten in the last three finals here, having won the previous three, said:

"Jennifer was just too good today."

CAPTION(S):

CHAMP: Jennifer Capriati retains title
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 26, 2002
Words:354
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