Lindsay & Serena: Spotlight on two women’s tennis superstars
By Ahmed Abbas Rizvi
Lindsay Davenport and Serena Williams are the two reigning high priestesses of women’s tennis. But they couldn’t have been any different. To use a cliche, they are as alike as chalk and cheese.
Serena is the show girl, with dazzling outfits on court and glittery wear off it. She’s balancing three very successful careers — tennis, acting and fashion designing, having launched her own fashion line called Aneras. That’s Serena spelt backwards.
By contrast, Davenport has dedicated her life entirely to tennis. And when she is not playing tennis, she likes to be home, playing the good wife.
“I do my career when I am on the road and when I competing. When I am home, I am trying to be a good wife,” said the 28-year-old American, dressed in a simple top and a denim skirt as she met the Press.
Serena, on the other hand, came dressed to dazzle in bright green, with fashionable sunglasses.
“I train a bit but no interviews and stuff when I am home,” she added. “I am trying to spend as much time with my husband as possible, considering I travel half the year. We have two dogs, who I miss a lot when I am on the road. I have my nephews and nieces that live in the area and I try to see them as much as possible. I am just trying to get away from it (tennis) all,” she added.
And she revealed she did every household chore on her own, save the laundry.
“The only thing I don’t do is laundry, because we have so much,” she said. “I finally convinced my husband that we could have someone else do that for us.
“I have to pick up all the dog messes almost daily, take them for walks, pick the garbage out, make the beds.
“I try and do the best I can with my home-making skills.”
And she just doesn’t wish to be in the shoes of Serena or Maria Sharapova, walking the red carpets or the ramps, or romancing the studio lights. “I think it depends on the players and their personality,” she said. “Some players love to do that kind of stuff. They love to go on TV shows and do make-up and model, pose.
“I think right now in women’s tennis Serena and Maria love that. And they are bringing in great exposure to women’s tennis; bringing in fans from all over the world with their personalities,” she said in appreciation.
“(Anna) Kournikova and (Gabriela) Sabatini were actually the first ones to be tennis players and be famous for other things,” she added.
“Others of us are not just comfortable enough to do it. Speaking for me personally, I feel like I want to be a tennis player and I feel like I am a famous tennis player. And that’s really all I aspire to be.
“I don’t necessarily enjoy doing the other stuff. But I am fortunate enough I have colleagues that love it and they bring enough exposure to our sport,” she added.
If just being a famous tennis player was all that Davenport aspired for, she’s probably outdone herself. She is more than just a famous tennis player.
Her place in the Tennis Hall of Fame is assured and she will go down as one of the greatest players in the history of the game after achieving almost everything it is possible to achieve in the game. She’s won every Grand Slam except the French Open - which even the great Pete Sampras failed to win. She’s won an Olympic gold medal and she’s been ranked number one in both singles and doubles.
After playing in her first Grand Slam in 1991 she is still in contention for top honours, as her number one ranking and appearance in both the singles and doubles finals at the Australian Open testify.
But Melbourne 2005, she admitted, was one of her most draining experiences.
“I don’t know what it was. I just felt like the whole two weeks I never really played at my best,” she revealed.
“That in some ways is disappointing as a performer. But I was managing to win really tough matches. By the time I got to the final (where she lost to Serena), unfortunately I had used up all my energy. It was disappointing. If I was playing a little bit better, maybe those matches would have been a little faster and I would have felt a little better after 13 days of playing.
“But in some ways you have to look at that as very rewarding and very gratifying. You can get through all the way and not feel like you are perfect; not feel like you are playing you best.
“It was an interesting experience. It was one of the more physically and mentally exhausting tournaments I have ever competed in. I got really drained from that whole experience,” the three-time Grand Slam winner revealed.
“After all these years, you would think that really wouldn’t be the case. So I don’t know. It is something I have never experienced.”
And amongst all her matches at the Australian Open, the most draining surely must have been her epic quarterfinal duel against home favourite Alicia Molik, which the American won 6-4, 4-6, 9-7 in a two hours and 33 minutes.
The match was ranked as thrilling as Marat Safin’s upset of Roger Federer in the men’s semifinal.
“Alicia I think has probably been our most improved player over the last six months or so,” said Davenport. “I am happy for herÖ great girl, great personality, really sweet and a really positive person.
“I think it is great to see someone like her, I think she is 24, to come out and improve in the middle of her career. I think it gives a lot of hope and encouragement to a lot of other girls in their 20s that they can still reach the top and not have to settle for Top 50.”
Talking about the top, Davenport has hit with the best of the past generation and this. Who were her toughest three opponents?
“Oh gosh! I mean definitely Steffi (Graf),” she admitted. I have been fortunate enough to play Steffi many times.
“I would say Serena — I don’t know the third.
“I know it’s tough,” she laughed. “I have played everyone. I have played (Martina) Navratilova, but when I played her it was the last year she competed in singles in 1993. That was a bit of an amazing experience to play her.
“I didn’t play her when she was at her best.
“I think (Maria) Sharapova is going to go down as one of the greats in women’s tennis, although she is just at the very beginning of her career. Gosh, I don’t know, I don’t know — Steffi, Serena and ‘To Be Determined’ is the third,” she laughed away.
But I, being poor, have only my dreams
I have spread my dreams under your feet
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams