I came across this interview while looking for some other stuff and found it very interesting; if everyone already read it, my apologies.
July 18, 2002
SANEX WTA TOUR
An interview with:
CHRIS DE MARIA: Hi, everybody. Thanks for calling in today. I have Lindsay Davenport with me. I want to spend some time talking about her return to the Sanex WTA Tour. Before we open it to questions, I'm going to ask a couple of my own here to get the ball rolling. Welcome back, for starters. I know you're in the middle of Fed Cup right now and are trying to get some matchplay in between drops of rain today. We'll move this along as quickly as we can. You're making your return to the Tour next week in Stanford. Can you just share with everybody a little bit about how you feel getting back on tour? Are you nervous, excited, a little of both?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: I would say exactly that. I'm really excited. I spent a lot of time the last few months getting ready to come back. Ever since I came out of surgery, kind of my whole focus was to get back out on tour and get back to playing tennis. So I'm very excited about that aspect of it. A little bit nervous in terms of I've never been off nearly this long and never not played for close to three and a half months. You know, I think it's going to be very tough for me in the beginning just getting used to playing matches and competing again, but I'm excited for the challenge. Hopefully will get into the flow of things pretty quickly.
CHRIS DE MARIA: After the Bank of the West, you're going to head over to San Diego which I guess in a way is kind of like your home court, hometown event, fairly close to where you live when you're not traveling on the tour. Does that give you any kind of edge? Does that give you a sense of comfort, especially early on in the comeback?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Yeah. I mean, I live right exactly in the middle between the San Diego tournament and the Los Angeles tournament. So I'm very lucky to be able to go home throughout the week. Some nights I spend the night at home, although not always. You know, the schedule has worked out really great for me just to be able to come back for my first few tournaments in California, two in southern California, very near where I live. I have a lot of family and friends in the area. You know, not a lot of traveling in the beginning. I think it's pretty much ideal for me.
CHRIS DE MARIA: After the Acura Classic, you're going to make it three in a row and go up to Manhattan Beach to play the JP Morgan Chase Open where you're a three-time champion, including the defending champion. Do you have a secret to success out there?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: You know, the LA tournament is a tournament I grew up going to. My mom actually still owns her same box seats she's had for, I don't know, 10, 15 years now. So that's a tournament I always went to go watch. I remember seeing a lot of matches there in the late '80s and early '90s. You know, I love playing there. I'm so glad to win it three times. I'm going to try to do my best this year. I think it will be hard though.
CHRIS DE MARIA: We wish you all the best of luck. I'm going to open it up to questions from the distinguished press corps.
Q. A lot was talked about during Wimbledon and the French Open, how if you had been playing, maybe Venus and Serena wouldn't be ranked 1 and 2. Is that a little pressure on you? Do you feel like you have to get in there and stir things up?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Well, I think I'm not going to exactly be a huge factor right when I come out. I don't know if I'll be challenging for the titles right away. I think that's a little bit unfair to say. It is true that Martina and I -- myself, I've been out the whole year, Martina has been on and off the last, you know, eight or nine months. So maybe it's made it easier for them. But certainly they've accomplished so much. Who knows what would have happened. Kind of pointless to speculate on that. Definitely those two are leading the tour right now. It's up to all the players, not just myself, to try and get some other players winning some Grand Slam titles and get some other players in the finals. But I think it always kind of goes in cycles like that a little bit. Last year it seemed like Venus and Jennifer were at the top. The year before, maybe myself and Martina. This year so far it's Venus and Serena. We'll just have to wait and see who can maybe knock one of them off.
Q. Would you describe the nature of the injury and what you've done maybe to rehab it in some detail for us.
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Sure. I'll do my best (laughter). As some you know, I hurt it semifinals of Munich last year. I had already had a bone bruise on top of my tibia bone, around the tibia plateau. I struggled throughout the year with that injury and trying to get that better. At the end of that match in Munich, I did it again where the two bones knocked together, you know, the bottom right part of my right knee. The time I knocked it this time, I kind of fractured all the cartilage that was there. I'm sure there's a better way to describe this. Probably should have a doctor telling you this (laughter). I tried to rest it for about six weeks, just about doing nothing, to try and see if it would heal at all on its own. The surgery that would be required would be quite, you know, an extensive rehab. About mid December I tried to hit a few balls. It would be okay for about 20 minutes, then just start killing me again. So right around after Christmas, I researched the surgery that I needed to do. Went and had a procedure called microfracture where the doctor goes into the space where there's no cartilage and almost drills holes so some baby cartilage will bleed through the holes, kind of get in place of the cartilage that was knocked out. I was on crutches for just about nine weeks, trying to let the cartilage settle into place, kind of hold the bone and keep strong. Then the rehab, just trying to get the strength back in my leg. You know, obviously a lot of atrophy sets in after nine weeks of non-weight bearing. Just tons of exercises, tons of time in the pool. I was hooked up to a machine for eight hours a day. The first eight weeks, I would bend and straighten my leg to try to get the cartilage to fit. I was able to start hitting balls again about somewhere around the 10th of May, beginning of May, and just stand there. Started to be able to run the beginning of June. Really started to be able to switch directions in mid to late June.
Q. How did you deal with it mentally?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: It was tough. Fortunately, I had just a fantastic doctor in Dr. Steadman. I had my surgery January 10th. I talked to him the day before. He told me it was going to be a six-month adventure almost. The first few months were going to be difficult for an athlete to be on crutches, to be hooked up to this machine. You know, from there, after the first eight weeks, nine weeks went by, it was -- I had stages to where like I started to walk on my leg, which was really excited, then I could walk up hills, then I could jog, jog up hills, then run. It was a lot of different stages of my rehab. Fortunately I remained positive throughout the ordeal. I'm not sure how. I was really kind of excited to get back.
Q. Where is Dr. Steadman based?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: He's based in Vail, Colorado.
Q. My question relates to many have talked about you in terms of the behavior of top stars. In his recent book John McEnroe made a very provocative comment and said that cockiness for him and for the top stars has become a survival mechanism, that the top stars can't exist without it, and that self-confidence and that selfishness is a must. Could you take a moment and comment on that, how you approach it?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Well, I think if you're going to be the best at anything, you definitely have to have a high level of self-confidence and a high level of arrogance. There's no question about it. You definitely have to be selfish in an individual sport. You know, those are just attributes that you must have. However, there's certain ways that you can show them, how you speak. You know, I've always thought that, you know, what you believe in your heart is really more important than what other people perceive of you. You know, some people are more in your face about it, and other people are more gentle about it. You know, I definitely have to have those attributes, but I don't feel like telling everyone in the world that I think I'm the best, you know, comments like that. You know, for some people it works.
Q. How do you handle when you get all this adulation as a top star? How does that affect you? Do you have an on-court and off-court persona? Does all the adulation affect you?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: I certainly do not handle being in the public eye very well. You know, when I'm not around tennis, I'm very uncomfortable almost when people approach me for autographs or to talk about something. Some people give advice that never played the game. You know, I try and do my best, like most athletes or stars do. I know going to a tennis tournament, you know, you're going to be in the limelight. There's going to be people around. You try to get used to it off the court. But it definitely gets difficult, and you have to try really hard not to let it get to your head and think that this is normal, that people want to give you stuff, people kind of fawn all over you. You have to know that's not typical, that's not normal.
Q. What are your thoughts as you watched the Wimbledon final, if you did? Probably the best match the sisters have played. The level was mind-blowing. Did you have that reaction or were you thinking, "This is what I'm going to have to do, it's a great challenge"?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: You know, I did not see any of that final. I did read kind of the same assessment that you had of the match, that it was the best. I found that I watched more of the early rounds in the Grand Slams when they were on TV, kind of on all morning on the West Coast, Paris and England. During the day I was definitely really busy, so I didn't watch some of the matches. I can't imagine how difficult it is for those two to play each other. You know, I have a hard time playing my friends, and I'm not nearly as close to my friends as I am to my sisters. They play similar types of games, I mean, almost identical. When you have two power hitters playing each other, you're not going to have rallies, you're not going to get serves back. They're faced with that dilemma as well as being so close. I'm sure they'll get better as time goes on. Everyone did say that the Wimbledon final was much better than previous matches they've played. Hopefully they'll keep up that level when they do compete against each other.
Q. You finished the year at No. 1. It's almost now like you've been forgotten.
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: It's been the best eight months of my life. I didn't do any media. That was the best part.
Q. I'm just wondering if you feel, because the sisters seem to be improving, it could be the challenge of your life to get back to No. 1.
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: My challenge isn't to get to No. 1. I mean, my challenge is to get back into the top of the game, whatever the ranking is. I've never, you know, put any emphasis on what I'm ranked. I'm coming back now ranked I think outside the Top 10. I'm not going to really move up at all this year. My results last year from Wimbledon through the end of the year, winning a lot of tournaments and finals at almost all of them. I'm going to fall this year out of Top 10. I don't know what I'm going to fall to. The most important thing for me is to take a few months to get back on the tour and then maybe be a threat the end of this year, early next year. I'm not really expecting to come out and start winning these tournaments right away.
Q. Do you feel, after the surgery, the rehab, as fit as you were before? How long is that going to linger in your mind about the injury, or is it completely done, out of your mind already?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: The injury is out of my mind already. Running for balls on court, I think I've gotten over that - hopefully (laughter). I haven't felt in practice in the last few weeks like I shouldn't go for a shot because of my knee. Certainly in the beginning it was very tough to kind of push yourself to jump up for that overhead or to go wide. But that's out of my mind. I'm definitely in far better shape than November. I worked extremely hard this last, you know, six or seven months. My shape is not an issue. I mean, what you deal with is getting fatigued in matches because you're not used to playing three sets. I'll have to deal with that. I've done my best to come back stronger and fitter than before. Just have to get kind of used to tournament shape, getting ready to play a long match, coming back the next day.
Q. Do you think this California swing is going to do that for you?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: It might. It might take a little longer. It might click in soon. I played Team Tennis a couple weeks ago, a week ago, and it was definitely a little bit weird. I struggled a little bit. I've practiced here this week at Fed Cup with Lisa Raymond, Meghann Shaughnessy and Monica. Already I'm getting better being around other players and getting used to competing. Hopefully the matches this weekend will help me. I'll just keep going. Everyone who I talked to who has had an injury says one day it just clicks and you're back to where you were. I'm hoping it comes soon.
Q. You mentioned the best part of your time off has not been having to deal with us in the media. Can you talk about how refreshing the time off has been for you?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: You know, you have to look at everything that it's been for a reason. And I do think that this will prolong my career. I started playing in '91 as an amateur, played a number of tournaments, a number of tournaments in '92. The break has really helped me to probably play a couple more years than I would have. It has been refreshing. When I was in the hospital for the couple days after surgery, everything that went through my mind was like, "Okay, I've got to get back, I really want to come back and do well again. I don't want to end my career this way." I'm really refreshed, really excited to be back out on the road. It's easier to compete. Hopefully that will turn into some good results soon.
Q. What did you miss the most? Was it the workouts, practices, competition?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Really, the competition, missing chances to play Grand Slams. You have a short enough window as a professional athlete anyway, whether it's 10 years or five years or 12 years. To miss three Slams in one year is quite a lot. Australia was the hardest one to miss because it was right after my surgery and when I was definitely in the worst shape and the worst pain. But it was just the opportunities that I missed and the competition, just feeling like I'm not really doing what I'm supposed to be doing right now. But hopefully I'll make that up sometime.
Q. Does it give you a sense of more gratification that maybe you'll embrace the sport even more, be gratified to get back out there?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Well, I know I always loved it, and I loved to play. I think I'll always play my whole life. It does get tiring, the competition, dealing with everything. So the break will probably do me some good. But it will be gratifying to get back out there competing against the other players, getting back to doing what I've done for so long.
Q. When you play the Acura at La Costa, is that a pressure when there's family and friends or do you embrace that?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: It's never been a problem. I've always actually played well in California. Sometimes I struggle the most in that middle one, coming from Stanford, where I've been in the finals, I don't know, four years in a row, five years in a row. So sometimes you get to San Diego and I'm a little bit tired, little bit different conditions. I do well at Manhattan Beach. I have no idea what this year holds in store. I look forward to doing better in La Costa than I have. I only won it once. I feel like growing up in California on the coast, I should do better there.
Q. How do you respond to somebody that would suggest that the public perception of women's tennis seems to have changed in your absence, that the Williams sisters are now in an even more dominant position in the public eye than they were before you were eliminated temporarily? One guy told me he thinks the Williams could be dominant players for (inaudible) years.
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Well, certainly they could be. You have no idea what's in store. If they stay healthy, they could be. Venus has been almost dominant for two years, at the top of the game. I think it took Serena to be more consistent and play more tournaments to get up there. Certainly they have the attributes that are going to help them. They're both very fast, they have great serves, they hit really great groundstrokes. It's going to take a lot to knock them off. Who knows if you can. Who knows if they stay injury-free. There's so many "ifs" there. It's going to be tough to knock them off from the top.
Q. In your remarks today you seem to have a very reserved feeling about what you're going to be able to accomplish in the next few weeks. Why don't you say, "I'm going to go out there and kill them"?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Well, you probably weren't on crutches for nine weeks. Certainly I want to do great out there. I'm not coming back to lose first round. I'm sorry if you took that out of there. I'm not going to overexpect things from myself and expect to win the first tournament back. It's very difficult to play a tennis match when you've been out a number of matches, especially I haven't played a match since the 2nd of November. I'm not trying to say, "I'm going to come back and do as well as I did before surgery," because that's just setting yourself up for failure. I worked my ass off to get back up here, and I'm going to do the best that I can, whatever that is.
Q. Some athletes when they're off for a while get more analytical, they're watching because they can't be out there. Is that something you went through?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: No, I think I've always been able to tell player's weaknesses and strengths from a few minutes. I've always enjoyed sometimes watching and seeing players play. But, you know, I've never watched a tape of myself on a VCR or someone else. I kind of worry about my own game. I feel like I have the style of game where if I play well, I can take the match no matter what the other girl's doing. That's what I worry about first. If that's not working, then I'll go back to what I have in my mind of what I think the player does great or doesn't do well, then go from there.
Q. Do you find yourself watching a lot of tennis or less while you were out?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Probably the same that I would have if I had been home anyways. You know, I wasn't sitting around at home waiting for it to come on. If it was on when I was at the gym, I wouldn't turn it off, I would definitely watch it. I have a hard time listening to the commentators. I haven't found too many commentators that I think have done a good job. I kind of keep it on mute, watch a little and see what's going on.
Q. Did you feel like you were losing touch a little bit with Venus even last year? Is it good for tennis to have the same two players in the finals all the time, especially if they are sisters?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: I don't know, I mean, Venus was definitely just doing great the last two years. You know, I think that she kind of put her game together. Players go through spurts, especially when they're younger, where they'll make some big improvements in a year, in a few months' time. She definitely was able to do that. I do remember thinking she was always pretty much the favorite. I thought even though Jennifer was doing well, I always thought if Venus was playing well, Venus was going to beat Jennifer in a big match. I don't know if that changed this year. I only know by results.
Q. When you played her, did you feel like if she played well, she was going to beat you, too?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: You know, I felt like if she didn't make a lot of errors, usually that's her downfall when she loses match, I think you'll see she has, you know, just a ton of unforced errors, that, yeah, I mean, it's just impossible to beat her if she keeps her unforced errors down. It's not only me; I think it's everybody. She moves so well, as well. But as far as the two sisters playing each other, I think that who knows what's good for the game. We have more players now than we did in the '80s with Chris and Martina. I think eventually it will change and someone else will get up there. I don't know if it's this year. I really haven't been around to watch the level of what the other girls play at and what they play at.
Q. Could you talk about your former doubles partner Corina, her comeback, what you've talked to her about, what she's going through?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Well, I mean, what I've gone through certainly doesn't compare. It's amazing she's back out there already competing. I think she's been doing well in Team Tennis from what I've heard. I know she's so excited to come back and definitely has a different outlook on her career and about tennis than she did beforehand. You kind of just know she's going to enjoy it more. Everything she faced, no one could possibly imagine. What I went through doesn't even compare to what she had to go through. I haven't talked to her since she started playing Team Tennis. Like I said, I heard from other people that she's been playing great. I know she's excited to get back out there this summer and start competing again.
Q. Have you talked about teaming up again?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: We did briefly. With my knee, I just -- I'm not going to play doubles anymore. It's just too much tennis on it. I've really got to take care of myself probably the last years of my career. I'd love to, but at this time, just coming back after all these months of not playing, I just really want to do the singles and concentrate on staying healthy right now.
Q. When you were out what kind of perspective did you gain about your career, maybe what you're going to do after tennis? Did that creep into your mind?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: No, not really. I'm pretty much set on what I want to do when my career's over. But I still want to compete the next few years. If I'm competing at a high level, I'm going to stay out there. I'm not going to stay out there if I'm not a contender at tournaments. And if I don't feel like I can make it at the top, I don't want to be out there anymore. But my perspective on tennis, I've always loved to play tennis. That didn't change. Excited to get back out there. I'll have my after-career whenever it comes to me when I need to stop.
Q. Kim Clijsters is also in this event next week. Can you break her game down and do you think she's one that can pose a threat to the Williams sisters?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Well, I know last year she was playing well. I mean, she moves great. She has a great, great backhand. She's a good competitor. I haven't seen her play obviously at all this year. From what I remember, I don't think she's had great results, but I could be wrong there. Who knows who can challenge the Williams. I don't know if she hits enough winners to really threaten them, but maybe she does. I'm kind of guessing right now. But she's a great competitor, she's really young, feisty, which you need to be, always tries hard.
Q. When the Williams sisters reached the finals at Wimbledon, Mauresmo told French TV, "I think it's fixed. I don't have any information, nothing at all, but having seen the matches, I think it could be fixed." Kind of a tough comment. Could you comment on that?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: I think that's preposterous. I have no doubt in my mind, I don't think they fix it. Everyone has their opinions. But they're in a no-win situation. If they play a bad match, it's fixed. If they play a good match, they know each other's games. If one wins it's because ... You know what I mean? It's impossible for them to win. I don't think that they're fixed. I think they're both professionals. I think they both want it badly enough not to say like, "Okay, I'll let you win here." We just don't do that. I don't think they would either.
Q. Could you imagine what it would be like to actually go out in each match against a family member?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: No. That's what I said. I had a hard time playing Mary Joe when we were so close. It was extremely hard. For them, you can just see, like I said, I didn't see the Wimbledon final, everyone says they played better. Their previous finals, kind of the buzz was that they didn't play well against each other. That's probably because they're nervous. They don't know how to play against each other. They don't really want to hit that forehand winner. It's just natural. They definitely got a terrible rap for that, I think.
Q. Does that perception hurt the game?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: I don't know. You know, who knows. People can think that. Like I said, no matter what they do, people are going to say something, and they can't win, whether it's a great match, a bad match, a close match, a kill. No one ever knows.
Q. You talked about hitting the mute button when you were watching tennis. If you were commentating, how would you do it differently?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: I just think some of the people commentating, obviously when you're playing the tour, you know the ins and outs. Some of the players talk like -- some of the commentators talk about the ins and outs, but they're kind of wrong, or they're just so critical. In the '80s, people didn't make unforced errors, they just made all these shots. Well, the game in the 2000 years is to go for winners. Yeah, we have way more unforced errors, but we're also trying to do something with the ball, trying to play points. Just seems like everyone is so critical about unforced errors. It's like, "It's part of the game." I don't know. It's just my opinion. I don't want to start a controversy by saying that.
Q. Do you think it took anything away from the Wimbledon final that we knew that Serena was going to be the new No. 1?
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: I wasn't aware of that, so I don't know. Sorry.
CHRIS DE MARIA: We've got to wrap it up. Thanks again.
LINDSAY DAVENPORT: Thank you.
End of FastScripts….