Davenport hopes foot will heal for US Open run
Davenport hopes foot will heal for US Open run
By Matthew Cronin
Susan Mullane/Camerwork USA, Inc.
FROM THE ACURA CLASSIC IN CARLSBAD, CALIF. – As she had eight times before, fifth-ranked Lindsay Davenport displayed at the Acura Classic why she is so much better of a player than compatriot Amy Frazier: She's stronger off both wings, has a bigger serve, is a more aggressive returner and a much smarter player.
But the clock is ticking on the inflamed nerve in Davenport's left foot and the 27-year-old said surgery is probable immediately following the US Open, which will take her out of action rest of the year. And there's no guarantee that her left foot will even hold up that long.
"Unless it gets better, that's what I'm leaning towards now," Davenport said. "The doctor has been trying to control it through next six weeks and I'll see after that. If it feels great, I'll try to delay it [until after the WTA Championships in November], but I don't know that it's going to happen."
Lindsay recently received her second cortisone injection to treat neuroma, which has inflamed a nerve in between the third and fourth toes. She says she has one more shot left "for the rest of my life" in that area and is praying that the one she just received will take her through the US Open, which she won in 1998 and is the title she cherishes the most.
"Now I've had two injections in the last five weeks. I have no idea how it will play out," said Davenport. "If I had surgery now, it would take three to four months to recover and my year would be over. Some days are good, some days are bad. It's a bizarre place to be in because I don't think anyone should have to play injured. I can't injure anything worse; it's just dealing with pain."
Davenport is not, as Frazier once said of herself, a "one-dimensional player." Hence Davenport's 6-3, 6-1 victory in the second round of the $1 million Acura Classic Tuesday, her first victory since her painful three-set loss to Venus Williams in the Wimbledon quarterfinals.
Lindsay, the '98 titleholder here, dictated the entire match against Frazier, whom she has only dropped one set against in nine meetings. The Southern Californian is wearing orthotics and taking anti-inflammatories. So, at least on Tuesday at the La Costa Resort and Spa, her movement wasn't restricted, like it is most days, on and off the court.
"If I walk barefoot it hurts or later in the day it aches a lot," she said. "It's something I could probably deal with if I wasn't pushing off or changing directions every which way on court."
THE "R" WORD WAS MENTIONED
The injury forced Davenport to retire from her fourth-round match against Conchita Martinez at Roland Garros and was so bad during Wimbledon that, after she lost to Venus 6-1 in the third set, the three-time Grand Slam champion began to discuss retirement.
"I don't want to play if I don't have the desire to be in the top four or five in the world," said Davenport, who's only won one title this year. "It's something I've lost a little. Some days I have desire and some days I don't. It's something I need to get back if I want to stay out here."
It's difficult for the one-time No. 1 to want to go back on court week after week when she realize that there's no way that she can overtake the Williams sisters or the Belgians at less than 100 percent. When she's healthy, she's hungry. When she's in pain, she knows that she likely staring another defeat in the face. Her recent marriage might also give her reason to rethink her commitment to playing.
"It makes life lie so much easier to be healthy," she said. "One day this week my foot didn't hurt at all it was so fun to run and do some drills. That's what makes it so enjoyable. I think that's one of the reasons that Steffi Graf retired because she was always battling injuries, couldn't practice and was worn out from it. It just wears on you when you have to go into tournaments under-prepared. If my foot clears up, it would be a lot better feeling to be out there all the time."
Davenport was a threat to win Grand Slams for a good six years and now, she's little more than a hobbled dark horse. She has a hard time imagining playing if she 's not a threat at the Slams.
"It'd be tough," she said. "I haven't been that position before. It's a weird feeling I've had the last few months and it's something that you deal with slowly. It's inevitable that your game stops improving at some time during your career, but you have to come to grips with that at sometime during your career."
Should she manage to play the next five weeks free of pain, Davenport will have more than puncher's chance at the US Open. Serena is hurt and unlikely to play until New York and it's doubtful that the injured Venus Williams will get in more than a tournament before New York, either.
Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne are both better players than Davenport is right now, but you can't count out a popular American at the US Open with the tremendous amount of experience that Davenport has.
"You always have to have that hope and belief, especially when you've had success," she said. "And you never know who will beat who and how you start playing all of a sudden. But its clear that going into the Slams that I'm not the favorite or one of the top three any more."
That thought alone is may be enough to bring on another cortisone injection.