Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: in Cloud Cuckoo Land
Lee-Waters: tennis mom on the road from Challengers to qualifying tournaments
By Ron Cioffi
FROM THE USTA WOMEN’S CHALLENGER IN ATLANTA – Few athletes who talk of the impact of family have as much baggage as Lindsay Lee-Waters. Baggage meaning bringing along her husband/coach and a two-year-old daughter on the WTA Tour.
Lee-Waters took the long haul this week from her metro Atlanta home to Sarasota, Fla., driving long hours from northern Georgia to the city on the Gulf Coast. She is also been riding a road that started with a quick rise to a Top-40 ranking in 1996 and then the fall to No. 533 after the birth of her daughter, Sevyn in 2001.
This week’s tournament had looked promising for the long-time Atlanta resident who was seeded No. 1 in the local Challenger tournament. The only dark cloud was the draw. Lee-Waters’s first-round opponent was Canada’s red-hot Jana Nejedly, who had just won the Challenger last week in Redding, Calif. Nejedly, ranked 242,blasted through two easy sets, dominating her opponent with a 6-3, 6-1 win.
“My grandma could have beaten me today,” Lindsay said. “It was one of those days. I haven’t had one of those in a year. I couldn’t find the court.”
Nejedly said, “I felt pretty confident coming in” to the match after her victory last week. “Our game styles match up pretty well. I got ahead early and stayed on top of her.”
Lee-Waters said the hometown crowd wasn’t any help. “I’ve never played great in Atlanta. … It’s nice [to be playing in your hometown] but it can be added pressure. You want to do well for them.”
Crowd might not be the word to describe attendance at this or any Challenger. No matter how inviting it is to watch some of the top 100 to 500 players in the world for free, the minor league circuit often draws more support personnel than spectators.
For instance, this tournament was raising money for the Neighborhood Charter School, a 98-year-old Atlanta elementary school that was destroyed by fire last fall. When 40-odd students filed into the stadium court, the number of fans more than doubled. The kids were so pleased with the action that they applauded for the first untouched serve they saw. Too bad it was a first-serve fault, not an ace.
A DIFFERENT FOCUS
The presence of just one child has changed Lee-Waters perspective on tennis and her performance on court. “My whole focus is with my family and tennis and my husband,” Heath Waters, a teaching pro, she added. “My focus is with them. Tennis is now more challenging than before.”
Lindsay explained that family life has “given me a lot more patience. Like losses. When I was a little younger, I would take the losses tougher and it would snowball. Now I realize you just have to move on.”
Was motherhood in her plans? “It just happened; it wasn’t planned,” she said about her pregnancy.
Lindsay went from a rookie in 1995 to the Top 40 in two years. Between 1995 and 1997 she made a dent in Grand Slam competition, gaining a 3-7 record. But then she found little success between 1997 and 2000, mired in a five-year drought without any Grand Slam appearances. This year she finally moved through the Australian Open qualies before losing to Lisa Raymond in the first round of the main tournament.
“I still have dreams I want to fulfill,” she said. “My husband has been very supportive. My goal is be top 60 at the end of the year. Now it’s just one step at a time.”
The maturing demand of motherhood has also affected her game. “Now, I’m taking my time. Before I just rushed between points and during the points. I was always in a hurry.”
FITNESS AND NET PLAY ARE KEYS TO VICTORY TODAY
Improving her fitness has been a new concentration, a focal point to regain her tennis form after giving birth. “It was tough getting in regular shape after the baby. I’ve had to work double hard.”
She added the only way for players to deal with the hard hitters on tour is to get more aggressive.
Lindsay said, “I think that’s where the game is going. Finisning the points off quicker to deal with more power. Being a lot more aggressive. Chanda Rubin is coming in all the time. That’s the game is going to beat the Williamses, especially Serena [Williams]. I’m trying to get to the net more and attacking weak second serves.”
Rubin has the best shot at upstaging the Williams sisters right now, Lee-Waters explained. She also noted that Maria Sharapova and Marion Bartoli are two young players with a ton of potential.