Awesome LD article @ Palm Beach Post
Commentary: Doggone it, her retirement can wait
By Karen Crouse
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 17, 2005
They were a young married couple wading into a capricious current. The woman gamely tested the waters, bringing up the subject of expanding their family. She was ready, but only if her husband was willing.
"Can we, please?" she said.
"Hey, if you think we're up for it," he said.
"Mom said she'd help out a little," she said.
"OK, then," he said. "We can make it work. Don't worry."
Lindsay Davenport didn't give spouse Jon Leach time to reconsider. She hung up her cellphone and, right there on the spot, adopted a 12-week-old Rottweiler-chow mix from the Nassau Humane Society in Fernandina Beach. McGill is the couple's third dog, joining Zoltan and Scout.
Davenport laughed when retelling the story last week in Charleston, S.C. The native Californian, who is expected to gather in Delray Beach this week with the rest of the U.S. Fed Cup team despite retiring from a match Friday with a strained hip, can imagine what some people are thinking.
Last summer the expectation was that Davenport would be bringing home a bundle of joy in 2005, not a black-tongued ball of fur.
Davenport had opened the discussion of her retirement after bowing out to Maria Sharapova in the semifinals at Wimbledon. The three-set match turned on a rain delay that left Davenport's spirit limper than her hair. It took all the bounce out of her step.
Or maybe Sharapova was simply the better player on that July day. At any rate, after the 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-1 loss Davenport was asked if she had thought at all about whether she'd be back.
It was a question most veteran players would have run around the way they do a ball to their weaker side, the better to produce the most effortless answer.
Davenport, 28, never outgrew her adolescent awkwardness at being singled out. She wears her discomfort with the public eye like mascara. But if she must deal with reporters, she's going to deal with them the way she does everyone else: truthfully.
So Davenport told the Wimbledon press, "I'd be surprised if I was back."
Those words stuck to her like gum to her shoe the rest of the summer. She couldn't go anywhere without reporters asking her to wax nostalgic. Her impending retirement became such a big deal, it threatened to overshadow her career resurgence.
"It was just kind of an answer to a question," Davenport said. "And then I felt guilty because a lot was made of it. It created a lot of headaches and drama."
A preening queen Davenport is decidedly not. She detests drama, except for any she's able to manufacture on the court. That's why it had to have been especially jarring for Leach last June when the phone rang in the middle of the night in the couple's home in Laguna Beach.
Davenport was on the other end. She was in tears. It was the morning of her Round of 16 match at Wimbledon against Russia's Vera Zvonareva.
"I haven't told this story before," Davenport said, "but I woke him up at three or four in the morning. I just remember crying and saying I'm not enjoying this anymore."
Leach talked Davenport out of her funk and she went on to defeat Zvonareva and Karolina Sprem before bowing out to Sharapova. Ten months later, Davenport can see that it wasn't tennis that had her down, it was all the physical infirmities that hurt her preparation.
Davenport can't play a punishing schedule anymore without paying for it; her latest injury occurred during the stretch in which she played eight matches in 10 days. A decision on her playing status for the Americans' match against Belgium will be made later in the week.
When she's healthy and rested, watch out. Davenport showed she can still be a major factor in women's tennis by winning 27 of 28 matches after Wimbledon.
She won five singles titles in that span to finish with seven for the year. On Oct. 18 she regained the world No. 1 ranking 144 weeks after relinquishing it. It was the longest a female player had gone between coronations since Chris Evert reclaimed the mantle from Martina Navratilova after 156 weeks in June 1985.
Surprising herself happy
This year, instead of trying to have a kid, Davenport is having a ball. She has advanced to five finals — including at the Australian Open, where she lost in three sets to her Fed Cup teammate Serena Williams — and captured two titles.
With her two-set victory against Silvia Farina Elia in the clay-court final at Amelia Island last week, Davenport became the first woman this year to crack the million-dollar mark in earnings. It was her 47th career WTA singles title.
Is it any wonder Davenport now is reluctant to offer a timetable for retiring?
"I don't think I can plan something like that," she said. "My oldest sister bugs me all the time to quit and have kids. When I tell her I still want to play tennis, she's like, 'What do you mean? You said you were going to retire last year.' "
Davenport laughed. "I'm just going to do what makes me happy."
An amateur psychologist might suggest that once Davenport gave herself permission to leave tennis she freed herself to enjoy the game again, and from that relaxed place came her summer of success.
Davenport nodded her head. She smiled as if the theory made total sense. And then she kindly rejected it. "I almost felt more pressure," she said, "because everywhere I'd go people would be asking, 'How do you feel playing your last match here?' "
She laughed. How weird is that when you're 28 years old and people are talking as if you have no tomorrows, only a wilting bouquet of yesterdays?
"It's just backwards," Davenport said.
Unpretentiousness oozes from Davenport like a pheromone. They will start selling Fendi bags at Kmart before Davenport is seen carrying around the latest must-have designer purse (and not just because Leach, an investment banker, is a stickler for judicious spending).
She showed up for a media session on the first day of the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, S.C. in faded blue jeans, scuffed clogs and a striped shirt. She looked less like a millionaire many times over than a kindergarten teacher.
No wonder she's a magnet for autograph-seeking kids.
Love and tennis
As Davenport was signing oversized tennis balls for her fans, a student in the veterinary program at a local college sidled up to Davenport's mother, who spent two precious weeks on the road with her youngest child. The student was watching McGill and the dogs of other WTA players. She told Ann Davenport that McGill's stool was very runny. "I think he's stressed," the volunteer said.
Ann Davenport looked over the future veterinarian's shoulder, to the pen holding the dogs. McGill was stretched out in the shade. He appeared to be snoozing. Ann Davenport rolled her eyes.
Throughout a busy morning of interviews, Davenport kept ducking out for a minute here, 30 seconds there, to check on McGill. She would pick him up and cuddle him and coo in his furry face.
If you want to charm Davenport out of her self-consciousness, ask her about her dogs. She and her husband have been accused of crossing the line from affection into obsession when it comes to their pets. They plead no contest.
"We're just such ridiculous dog lovers," Davenport said. "Everything we do is centered around our dogs. It's so sad."
Actually, it's pretty sweet, particularly when you consider that owning a dog is a lot like basic training for prospective parents. Some day Davenport will make a great mom. But right now she's happy being a great tennis player.