Big-hitting Davenport showing dominance
Big-hitting Davenport showing dominance
By JAMES BECK
April 12 2003
The Post and Courier
No one plays a bigger game of tennis than Lindsay Davenport when she's on. Wham! She'll split one line with a forehand. Bam! She'll split another line with a backhand. The point is over. Her opponent feels somewhat overwhelmed.
She might play the next point the same way, or put together a string of impressive points. Davenport plays a swashbuckling brand of tennis that is not only impressive, but very difficult to emulate. She shoots from the hip with her long, sweeping groundstrokes and serve.
She's in the Family Circle Cup's semifinals for the first time. That in itself tells something about her improvement on clay. She now says she actually feels comfortable on the soft green surface at Family Circle Tennis Center.
Davenport made some careless errors Friday in her 7-6 (3), 6-3 victory over talented 18-year-old Russsian Vera Zvonareva, but she also won most of the points she absolutely had to have. Davenport played as big as her 6-2 height on the big points.
She is a player who has taken a backseat to the Williams sisters and been plagued by injuries over the last couple of years. But all of that may be ready to change. Barring further injuries, she appears ready to play the best tennis of her outstanding career.
However, to make Sunday's final, she must defeat the biggest hitter in the game, Serena Williams, in today's 2 p.m. (ESPN2) match.
Serena came to Charleston determined to make up for last year's quarterfinal loss to Patty Schnyder, as well as to keep alive her goal of an unbeaten year. She certainly looked capable of beating the world Friday night in her 6-2, 6-2 conquest of Jelena Dokic.
But Serena's game did appear ragged at times, and she was beatable. Dokic didn't have the mental game to pull it off, despite flashes of brilliant shot-making ability. To beat Serena, you have to hit the first serve. Dokic didn't.
Davenport hits and serves deep. Serena hammers balls in such a way no one has been able to touch her in a big match in nearly a year. But Serena's her huge swings make her more prone to errors, especially early in the year on clay.
A year ago, the word was that Serena couldn't play on clay. She proved everyone wrong. But she will have to prove again today that she is a true clay-court player.
THE 'OTHER' SEMIFINAL
Mary Pierce isn't back, but she's getting closer. Justine Henin-Hardenne just played too solid and too consistent, especially as Pierce is nursing a leg injury.
Pierce continued to look better with each match, even in her 6-2, 6-3 loss to Henin-Hardenne in the quarterfinals. Pierce's movement is improving and her strokes are getting firmer. She could be a factor by the time the French Open arrives in two months.
But Henin-Hardenne's time is now. She is deceptively powerful, especially with her stylish one-handed backhand. She routinely hits the tape with her serve, often clocking in around the 100 mph mark. With precision placement, that's not a bad speed.
Henin-Hardenne is as consistent as the day is long. She won't beat herself. But neither will 17-year-old Ashley Harkleroad.
Harkleroad proved again in her 6-2, 6-1 upset of ninth-ranked Daniela Hantuchova that she is the real thing. Harkleroad frustrated the tall Russian teenager from start to finish, seldom committing unforced errors and hitting a ton of winners.
Hantuchova started out going for her shots. When that didn't work, she tried a finesse strategy. Finally, she saw the writing on the wall, and surrendered without a strong fight.
Harkleroad does everything well. She's a mixture of Andre Agassi and Martina Hingis.
This Harkleroad vs. Henin-Hardenne encounter will be a battle of minds as much as talent. Henin-Hardenne will not go down without a fight, neither will Harkleroad. In the end, the best talent probably will win, and Harkleroad may have the edge there.