She's back, baby!
Don't question Davenport's comeback -- just enjoy it
When my doubles partner, Sam Stosur
, told me a few months ago that she preferred not to play in New Haven, Conn., this year, I started looking for someone else. After all, I love participating in the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament.
The list of potential replacements was short and sweet. I picked up my BlackBerry and sent a text to an old friend and former partner to see if she would be interested in coming out of what we all thought was retirement to bang a few balls around and have some fun.
Little did we know that rather than talking about Lindsay Davenport
's "retirement," we should have been talking about her "extended maternity leave," as that's exactly what she was doing.
Davenport and I have been friends for a long time. We both turned pro in 1993; I came onto the WTA Tour after two years of college tennis at Florida, while she came through the more traditional junior ranks.
We played some of our first Tour doubles events together, having some success but even more laughs along the way. Our careers and lives have taken different paths, yet our friendship has endured.
I was pleasantly surprised when I got a text back in short order from Lindsay, agreeing to play in New Haven. She took a few hours to think about it, talk it over with her husband, Jon
, and decided she was game. The decision to play was largely driven by the desire to get back on the court, have some fun and give the crowd something to cheer.
We asked for a wild card into the draw (the event begins Aug. 17), and tournament director Anne Worcester
and her crew at the Pilot Pen were more than happy to oblige. As it turns out, it looks like Lindsay's return at New Haven is something of a springboard for her to get back into the game of professional tennis. It was recently announced that she will play singles again, beginning in September in Bali, Indonesia.
Since the news broke, there have been numerous articles and much talk about why she is making the comeback. Why would Lindsay Davenport, after having accomplished so much in her successful career, come back to play after just giving birth 10 weeks ago to her adorable son, Jagger
? Why play tennis again? Why not just enjoy being a mom?
My only question is, why not? Let's not forget, Lindsay never said she was retiring. Never once did she say it was her last Australian Open, or that she would be quitting after the birth of her first child. No swan song, no farewell match or tour, nada. Everyone just assumed. Wrong assumption, folks.
Davenport has said that her motivation comes from the challenge itself, to see if she can do it again. She wants to test herself to see if she can get back into fighting shape, compete with the best and win on the big-stage again. The Olympics are another reason. While she already has an Olympic medal, she wants to play in both singles and doubles in Beijing in '08. I know one person who is excited about the possibility of that!
Maybe there is part of her that sees the recent success of Serena Williams
Down Under and Venus
at Wimbledon, and that makes that fire inside of her burn just a little hotter. Whatever the case, the bottom line is that it is Lindsay's decision.
We are so quick to judge and question why. Does it matter if it's because she missed the high you get when you win a title or walk into a packed stadium like center court in Flushing Meadows? Hasn't she earned the right?
The tennis world should welcome back Lindsay with open arms, especially here in the U.S. We have the Williams sisters, who have produced incredible results in '07, but the list starts and ends with them. To have Davenport back playing for our country in both Fed Cup and the Olympics would be something all Americans should cheer about and want to see.
The women's game has a slew of new exciting faces tearing up the rankings, but it seems there is something missing when you look at the names on top of the rankings. Outside of the Williamses, there are no other Americans in the top 35. It would be great to have someone back who is not only a leader, but someone who is intelligent, articulate and personable.
I'm looking forward to taking the court with my friend in a couple of weeks and having some fun. If we do well, that would just be an added bonus. It will be a bit surreal to look over at our player box and see a new set of eyes watching "mom."
Whatever happens in Connecticut, I know that given the right amount of time, Lindsay will be right back in the thick of it. It may take a few months, but once she hits her stride again, look out. It won't be long before her name is back etched on trophies and in the record books.
Any tennis fan, including this one, should be excited about that possibility.