Renewed single focus--Raymond article
Renewed single focus
By Michael DiRocco
April 18 2003
The Florida Times Union
AMELIA ISLAND -- Lisa Raymond has been on the WTA Tour for 10 years, has won 36 doubles titles, including six Grand Slams, and has finished the season ranked in the top 30 in singles six of the past eight years.
But all that matters when she plays at the Bausch & Lomb Championships is her orange and blue background.
Cheers of "Go Gators!" and occasional outbreaks of the chomp are present at every match the former University of Florida standout plays at Amelia Island Plantation, including during her her three-set upset yesterday of No. 5 seed Jelena Dokic on Stadium Court.
Raymond, who won NCAA singles titles in 1992 and 1993 then left school early to turn pro, can't get enough of it.
"Oh my God, are you kidding me? I love it," she said after her 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-2 victory set up a quarterfinal matchup with No. 3 seed Jennifer Capriati. "It's something that will forever be a part of me, and I'm so proud of it. If anyone would ever say, 'Do you regret missing out on those two years on the pro tour by going to school?,' it's like, no shot. Those were two of the best years of my life.
"That's why I love playing here. This is one of my favorite tournaments to play for that reason -- the support and friends that drive down from Gainesville."
Raymond's victory was one of two third-round upsets yesterday, along with No. 10 Elena Dementieva's 7-6 (2), 6-3 win over No. 8 Amanda Coetzer. Every other higher seed advanced to today's quarterfinals: No. 2 Lindsay Davenport beat Marlene Weingartner, Capriati survived a two-hour, three-set match against No. 15 Paola Suarez, No. 6 Monica Seles routed No. 11 Nathalie Dechy, and No. 7 Patty Schnyder defeated No. 9 Meghann Shaughnessy. No. 4 Daniela Hantuchova played No. 16 Alexandra Stevenson last night.
Raymond's career since she left Gainesville with an 84-4 record has been solid but not spectacular. She has four WTA Tour singles titles -- including wins at Memphis in 2002 and earlier this year.
Players are measured by their success in singles and, in that respect, Raymond has underachieved. It was her 30th birthday -- coming up on Aug. 10 -- that finally made her accept that and determine to try and change it.
"I've done a lot of work with myself this past year," Raymond said. "I don't know if it's a maturity thing ... But you look at your life a lot differently than you do when you're 22 and 23, and you realize this is an amazing life and these are amazing opportunities. I need to make the best of it.
"I've got one shot at this. Why not give it everything I've got?"
Raymond worked on her conditioning, dropped some weight and concentrated on refining the mental part of her game. The physical part has always been there, she said, but this is the first time she's as fit mentally as she is physically.
It's shown so far. She beat Amanda Coetzer in Memphis, and reached the semifinals in Tokyo before losing to Lindsay Davenport.
Raymond has four victories over players ranked ahead of her in the WTA Tour rankings, including Dokic in the quarterfinals in Tokyo.
"I've been playing really well, and I know I probably sound like a broken record every time I do an interview, but for me it's not really about my game," said Raymond, who was inducted into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame last weekend. "It's always been more about upstairs and my fitness. I'm definitely fitter than I've been in a while, and I feel like I'm really happy right now with a lot of things on and off the tennis court.
"It transcends. If you're content with yourself off the court, you're going to be content with yourself on the court.
"I don't know if that's a little bit of maturity [or] experience. I've always had the game. It was just a matter of putting the work in and getting fitter and getting my mind-set better."
That was evident yesterday. After winning the first set 6-3, Raymond -- who was wearing an orange and blue outfit -- fell behind 5-3 in the second. She won three of the next four games to force a tiebreak, but blew a 2-0 lead and Dokic forced a final set. In past years, Raymond might not have been able to recover, but it was no problem yesterday.
Raymond needed just 24 minutes to win the final set, breaking Dokic twice. She blew two serves past Dokic in the final game, and never needed to return a ball.
"I was pretty happy with the way I was able to regroup and get that intensity right back, and get an early break in the third and just kind of roll with it," said Raymond, who has reached the quarterfinals just one other time (1998) in six previous appearances at Amelia Island. "Clay's certainly not my favorite surface, and for me to go out there and beat Jelena on clay pretty much just fighting, that makes me feel good."