Three-time champion Martina Hingis met an unexpected finalist, Jennifer Capriati, for the title.
Capriati returned to Melbourne in 2001 as the No. 12 seed. After struggling through her first match, she breezed through her next three to reach the quarterfinals. There, the 24-year-old met her former teenage rival Monica Seles and prevailed in three sets to make the semis for the second year in a row. Capriati then defeated Lindsay Davenport to reach the first Grand Slam final of her career.
While she was shaking up the bottom half of the draw, the top half went to form as No. 1 seeded Martina Hingis steadily made her way through the tournament. Like Capriati, she beat two Americans in the quarters and semis—Serena and Venus Williams, respectively—to reach the final, her fourth consecutive appearance in the title round.
Back in 1997, before she won her first major at the Australian Open, Hingis captured the warm-up tournament in Sydney. Her final-round opponent that day was Capriati, and Hingis would beat her four more times without the loss of a set. With this being Capriati’s first major final, it was assumed the streak could continue.
Capriati, though, had other plans as she stormed out to a 4-0 lead. Hingis made some adjustments to take three of the next four games. Capriati, though, ended up clinching the first set on her second attempt serving for it, taking it 6-4.
While Hingis was able to counter the power of the Williams sisters in the prior two rounds, Capriati was able to frustrate the world No. 1 by running down her shots and cracking winners at the end of their long rallies. At 2-2, Capriati secured another break, and would only drop one more game to take the second set, 6-3, giving her the first Grand Slam title of her career.
Aside from this being Hingis’ fifth Australian Open final in a row, it was the ninth time in 13 Grand Slams she reached the championship round.
Capriati was the lowest-ever seed to win the women’s title.
After the tournament, Capriati made a return to the Top 10 of the rankings, her first appearance there since 1994. The nearly eight-year gap was the longest span in WTA history.
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