Welcome back, Lindsay
by: Peter Bodo, TENNIS.com
posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2007 | Feedback | Print Entry
filed under: Tennis
While drifting around the National Tennis Center over the final weekend of the U.S. Open, I paused by the fountains and Jumbotron to watch part of a classic flashback match: the 2000 final between Lindsay Davenport and Venus Williams.
I was struck by the way Davenport looked downright pained, as if the game were drudgery, while Venus continually appeared focused and eager. Did anyone ever appear to be more put upon contending for a Grand Slam title than Lindsay? Has any player ever had such a reliable sliding scale of evident misery, swelling like a radio signal in direct proportion to the importance of the event and the intensity of the spotlight? Lindsay had an odd problem: She had a shy, self-conscious journeywoman's sensibility, trapped in a great Grand Slam champion's game and body.
That may not change now that Lindsay is back from a surprisingly brief maternity leave (a comeback nobody, least of all Lindsay, hinted at). Today, she won her singles debut in Indonesia, waxing Eleni Daniilidou two-and-two. But what is different is that although Lindsay still may not always look it, we know that she loves this game. And that's welcome news on a WTA Tour that has been churning out a fair number of malcontents who are at their most eloquent when they're trashing tennis and declaring their desire to cast off the burden of being a multi-millionaire international superstar. So how great is it that we have among us a former, multiple Grand Slam champ who has declared: "I quit tennis but I missed it so much I couldn't stay away a moment longer than I had to!"
Of course, Martina Hingis did something similar, when she left the tour for three years and returned, reinvigorated, in 2006. But that was a slightly different case. Hingis was injured and, I suspect, there also were legal actions and issues pertaining to her foot problems. She took a convenient break, although not a potentially life-altering one. It was different for Lindsay. She gave birth to a baby boy, Jagger, but decided she was cut out to be a working mom. This undoubtedly had to do with her working conditions: a "salary" of three or four mill, give or take an endorsement or two, and pleasant job working outdoors.
Lindsay Davenport is not the first major star to return to the tour after giving birth. Evonne Goolagong did the same thing, a few decades ago, and she ended up winning Wimbledon. Kim Clijsters, the dissident Belgian star, bitterly left the tour this year to wed and have kids. Maybe she'll rethink her convictions and take the road less traveled: the post-maternity comeback.
All of which makes me think that perhaps the WTA ought to encourage those who are interested in motherhood to take quick maternity leave, a la Lindsay. She's showing that not only can you come back, you can come back happy.