Davenport at pains to give it her all one more time
January 19, 2004
Lindsay Davenport could think of nothing worse than having her husband trailing around carrying her bags, sacrificing his career for hers. Jon Leach will be in Melbourne this week for one of his rare tournament visits, but if his wife reaches her sixth grand slam final, the busy investment banker will already be back in California, watching on TV.
Davenport would prefer to have Leach around more often, but is also grateful that her partner of four years, and spouse of 10 months, has more in his life than a special place in her entourage. His decision to cross the Pacific this month was a late one, made when Davenport's itinerary stretched to five weeks with a last-minute summons to the Hopman Cup.
Davenport says her husband is extremely intelligent and works hard at a job he loves. " I could never ask him to give that up for me, and the same; he doesn't ask me to stop travelling or anything."
And yet Davenport is thinking about it. The couple intends to start a family as soon as the three-time grand slam winner retires, whether that be in two months, or two years. Her admission at Wimbledon last year that her career may be closing prompted broad speculation that Davenport was about to toss in her racquet bag for a spot of bootie-knitting.
But she insists that her negativity had more to do with her continuing injury frustrations. Barely three months after Davenport returned from more than half-a-year on the sidelines following knee surgery, she began suffering the chronic nerve problem, Morton's neuroma, between the toes on her left foot. By the US Open in September, the pain was so intense that she required daily pain-killing injections and could practise for no more than 45-minute blocks.
By the time she lost in the semis to Kim Clijsters, she could not, perversely, have been happier. "It wears on you, because you're going into the matches unprepared, because you're constantly trying not to do too much, so my foot would be OK in matches, and at the US Open I was actually getting a shot each day to numb my foot, so I wouldn't feel the pain.
"At that point I was just like 'what am I doing? I have no idea why I'm going through all this. Is it really worth it?', and that was tough.
"I was so happy, and that's such a terrible feeling to have when you've lost in the semi-finals! It was really bizarre, so when I started hitting again in December after the surgery, it's just been really nice to be able to go as long as I want, and even to run on a treadmill's been pretty exciting because I haven't been able to do that since, like, April."
Davenport has a history of performing well after a break, and this month has been no exception. She did not lose a set in four matches at the Hopman Cup and then, when her tournament year began in Sydney last week, reached the semi-finals before a shoulder strain forced her to withdraw before playing Justine Henin-Hardenne.
The latest injury setback came when the problems afflicting so many of her rivals had installed Davenport - the only former winner left in the women's field - among the title favourites. Still, realistically, it may all have come a little too soon for a veteran who had played just four tour singles matches since September, and returned to the practice court only a month ago.
Still one of the game's cleanest ball-strikers, Davenport is loath to make major predictions because of the number of tournament variables but dares to hope she has one last slam - just one would do - left in her long, lean body. But, ever the realist, she emphasises that it has been four years since her most recent, at Melbourne Park in 2000.
One near-certainty is that the next, if there is one, will not be the French Open. Davenport acknowledges the slim chance of completing her set of majors in Paris, where she has had almost Samprasian problems on the slow, red clay. Davenport's career highlight remains a toss-up between her first slam, the 1998 US Open, when so much self-doubt was erased, and Wimbledon in 1999, because of her earlier losing battles with grass.
Davenport seems to lack no confidence at all. The 1996 Olympic gold medallist is an elder stateswoman on the women's tour, speaking candidly and thoughtfully on most issues.
At least from the outside, the 27-year-old has remained wonderfully unaffected by a brilliant career that she acknowledges in her 11th year is "closer to the end than the beginning". And as much as she is enjoying the time she has left, Davenport is also casting one eye ahead to life after tennis.
She will not miss the travelling or the many weeks at a time she is away from her husband, her home, the beach and her two dogs. She will miss the competition, the big matches against the best players, and the game itself, but Jon - the brother of former doubles star Rick Leach - is an accomplished player, so retirement is forecast to include a weekly social hit.
Davenport is where she wants to be, after a long and rewarding journey that has exceeded every expectation.
"I'm at this point right now where I'm so, so happy, first of all, to be playing and my foot feeling good, and to have been home, really, since September, we had a phenomenal four months - just at a really great place right now," she said.
"For my tennis, I decided at the end of last year after my surgery that I really wanted to make a good run this year and keep playing, and try to do as well as I've done in the past.
"Physically, I have to hope that I can stay healthy for the next few months to try to get back there. I know it's going to be hard, and new challenges [lie] ahead, but I look forward to it."
This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/...360631013.html
ETA: The Age has a longer version of this story with extra quotes, etc.