By Leighton Ginn
-- When Lindsay Davenport was talking about an opportunity to play in the Olympics in Athens, you could tell she was reading between the lines.
Davenport, who begins play in the Pacific Life Open today against Mara Santangelo, was told that rather than going by the rankings, the USTA would select its tennis players at their own discretion.
"Itís tough, I was surprised when I heard it a few weeks ago," Davenport said. "Itís going to be on hard court and the USTA wants to take the players they want to take."
Asked if Davenport meant the USTA wanted to set up the rules to take Serena and Venus Williams, she began to laugh.
"I think itís possible," Davenport said.
Serena has not played since winning Wimbledon last year, and Venus has struggled this year after missing the final six months of last year.
Although Davenport is one of the top doubles players in the world, she said she would only compete in singles for the Olympics.
Playing in the Olympics would have special meaning for Davenport. Her father Wink competed in the 1968 Olympics and Davenport herself has been on the U.S. team in 1996 and 2000.
"Thereís a chance to be a three-time Olympian," Davenport said. "Thatís something growing up, I would never, ever imagine so I donít think I can turn that down."
Davenport said her Gold medal in 1996 was a launching point in her career.
However, in 2000, Davenport could not compete in Sydney, Australia.
"I had a slight stress fracture in my foot, and after the end of a long summer, it was not fun to pull out when I had a chance for a medal," Davenport said. "That was the start of many more injuries, so I had to get used to it."
The latest of Davenportís injuries was another foot injury that hampered her for most of last year. Davenport said she tried to play through the injury, but it got continuously frustrating.
"From April until when I had surgery in October, it was dealing with a foot that wouldnít cooperate," Davenport said. "I donít want to be an average player ranked from sixth to 15th, sixth to 20 and just be out there. Iíd like to believe when I enter tournaments, I have a chance to win."
Davenport won the Pan Pacific in Tokyo in February, and then went winless the rest of the year.
Davenport said the pain varied. She could play under an hour on the foot before she started feeling pain. Other times, it would only take five minutes.
"Every year I was complaining about something that was holding me back," Davenport said. "I think the foot took a bigger toll on me last year. It was something that was getting worse, but you can play on it without it going wrong structurally.
"I thought maybe I can tough it out another week. At the U.S. Open, I was numbing it and I was thinking, ĎWhat are you doing?í "
Davenport had the surgery, and itís given her a renewed spirit. This year, Davenport reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and followed that by defending her title in Tokyo.
"Itís the best Iíve felt for so long. Itís been wonderful for the last four months and to finally get back in better shape, Iím excited," Davenport said. "The mentality changes when youíre healthy and youíre not being bothered by stuff. Itís a lot more fun to go out to practice and compete and work out and do all the things you need to be on top."
Lindsay Davenport was a finalist at the Pacific Life Open last year, losing to Kim Clijsters. She won it in 1997 and 2000. Davenport also has six doubles titles at Indian Wells (