Posted on Sat, Apr. 12, 2003
FAMILY CIRCLE CUP
Davenport in 'lucky' position
Relaxed former No. 1 faces Williams today
By Melinda Waldrop
The Sun News
CHARLESTON - She's back from an injury that could have ended her career, focused on raising her No. 5 ranking and trying to win a title on a surface on which she hasn't played a full season since 1999.
But Lindsay Davenport doesn't feel like she has to win this weekend's Family Circle Cup - or any other tournament, for that matter - to cement her place in women's tennis history.
"I think I'm in a lucky position where I am in my career, because I feel like I don't really have to prove anything to anybody anymore," said Davenport, who will face world No. 1 Serena Williams in a much-anticipated semifinal today after her 7-6 (3), 6-3 quarterfinal victory over Vera Zvonareva on Friday. " ... I feel like I've accomplished everything that I wanted to accomplish in tennis. That doesn't mean I don't have other goals, but my main goals were able to come true for me."
A glance at the list of her achievements bears out Davenport's words. She's collected three Grand Slam titles (the 2000 Australian Open, 1999 Wimbledon and the 1998 U.S. Open), piled up 37 career WTA Tour singles titles, amassed more than $14.8 million in prize money and been ranked No. 1 in the world for portions of the past five years.
That string of remarkable success has been threatened by recent injuries, including a knee problem that required arthroscopic surgery and sidelined her from January to June of 2002.
Partly because of the enforced inactivity, Davenport finished last year ranked No. 12 in the world, her first finish outside the top 10 in seven years.
But the 26-year-old Davenport isn't straining to regain her superlative status.
"It's more about enjoying the game this year," said Davenport, off to a 20-5 start in 2003 and making her first Family Circle appearance since 2003. "I think as you get older, it's more about playing the style that you want to play and also trying to improve. And obviously I'd like to stay healthy as well. But as far as having to prove anything to any players or any fans, I feel like I'm almost at the opposite of that."
Such a belief includes the rejection of a notion, powered by the spring-loaded groundstrokes that can blow opponents off the court, that Davenport, or perhaps fellow big-hitter Jennifer Capriati, are the only players capable of competing with the two dominant forces in women's tennis today: Venus and Serena Williams.
"I've certainly heard that from various reporters and various journalists or whatever, but I don't think the players feel like that," Davenport said. "I think that there's a number of players that are going to have to be able to step up and beat them, and not just myself or Capriati.
"We also have some good players from Belgium, [Kim] Clijsters and [Justine] Henin, as well as a lot of other players that are just kind of waiting to get over that hump and get to the very top of the game."
Davenport has a chance to get closer to that pinnacle with a victory today, and to derail a much-publicized goal of Serena's. The current holder of all four Grand Slam titles has declared she wants to go undefeated in 2003.
Such a bold declaration doesn't bother Davenport.
"I'm all for people setting goals," Davenport said. "... I'm going to try and beat her whether she said that or didn't say that."
Slowing down Serena's 20-0 start will be a tall order, even for the 6-foot-2½ Davenport.
"Who wouldn't want to beat the No. 1 player in the world?" Davenport said. "But it's going to be tough. You're going to have to play a very solid match, [play] very well all the way through, with no lapses."
If that doesn't happen for Davenport today, she's just happy to have the chance to try again next week, and the week after that.
"I still have goals and I still feel like I belong at the top of the game, and I still feel like I should win tournaments," Davenport said. "But I feel like I don't have the burden on my shoulders that I did in '97 or '98 where, you know, I was 21, 22, at the top but [I] hadn't won a Slam. I think that has a lot more pressure than, 'OK, I'm probably going to play about three more years.'
"I've won my Slams, and I've come back from possibly a career-ending injury, and I just gotta enjoy it after it [was] almost taken away from me."