Big honor for former Olympic tennis prodigy

Pauline Vu

Jennifer Capriati, who won a gold medal for the U.S. in women's singles tennis during the 1992 Olympics, received the sport's highest honor on Saturday when she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

The road to that accolade wasn't an easy one. Capriati exploded onto the tennis scene in 1990 as a 14-year-old prodigy, went through a rebellious stage that included experimenting with drugs and petty crime, and then worked to transform herself into a great tennis player once again.

During her acceptance speech on Saturday, a tearful Capriati, 36, listed her performance at the Barcelona games among her top achievements.

[ Photos: Meet the U.S. Olympic tennis team ]

"I still managed to overcome some adversity, win a gold medal, win some Grand Slams and stand at the podium at the Hall of Fame," she said. "This is one milestone I thought I'd never achieve."

Capriati won the gold medal in Barcelona when she was just 16, defeating second seed Arantxa Sanchez Vicario of Spain en route to the final and then beating top seed Steffi Graf of Germany for the gold.

But she took a 14-month break from tennis between 1993 and 1995, during which time she was arrested for shoplifting from a mall in Florida and for possessing marijuana. Capriati entered drug rehab in 1994.

She began playing again in 1996, but had to work her way back to top form. At one point she was even ranked outside the top 200.

[ Photos: Rafael Nadal looks for gold ]

Still, Capriati capped her comeback in 2001 by winning her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open and followed that up by winning that year's French Open. The next year she successfully defended her Australian Open title, and in 2002, she won the ESPY award for Comeback Player of the Year.

"It's been quite a journey," Capriati said at a press conference before her induction. "Here, I look back at all those really great things I've accomplished and the achievements I've had, and those achievements I overcame."

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