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Golinds
Jun 13th, 2005, 08:05 PM
I found this article in the official Wimbledon Magazine for 2005 and thought it was quite good so here it is...

AIN’T NO STOPPING HER NOW
By Tony Kelshaw

With thoughts of retirement shoved onto the back-burner for the time being after a resurgence in form, the leading veteran in the women’s game is eyeing one last major shot at grass-court glory

When Lindsay Davenport left Wimbledon as a beaten semi-finalist last July she was not sure whether she would ever play there again.

Just five years after being crowned queen of the All England Club, the 28-year-old American feared her days as a Grand Slam contender were over and a 2-6 7-6 6-1 loss to teenage sensation Maria Sharapova did little to ease those doubts.

A series of injury setbacks and premature exits at the sport’s major events had left Davenport low on confidence and lacking the zest for success.

Many thought the plan was to call it quits after the season-ending WTA Tour Championship and that she had even taken her mother to SW19 for one last taste of strawberries and cream.

“I’d be surprised if I came back,” said Davenport. “I just don’t feel the same kind of excitement sometimes before matches.

“Even the wins don’t get me as excited anymore. On the flip side the losses don’t hurt as much, but I think that’s part of loving to be out here, to really go high and low.”

However, what followed was a 22-match winning sequence on home soil which earned her four consecutive titles in Stanford, Los Angeles, San Diego and Cincinnati before she finally tasted defeat in the semi-finals of the US Open.

After a month’s rest Davenport returned in October to claim another trophy in Filderstadt, and victory over top seed Amelie Mauresmo in the final saw her take over as world number one for the first time in three years. And world number ones do not retire.

Injuries to Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters admittedly helped Davenport to climb back to the top of the tree, but the fact she had beaten Venus Williams in the Stanford decider and Serena Williams in the LA final restored her faith in her own ability.

“I was interested to hear that actually no player has retired at number one,” said Davenport at the time.

“I don’t think that matters to me at all, but I play for the opportunity to win Grand Slams and I had two good chances this year at Wimbledon and the US Open.

“I’m looking forward to going to Australia again now and trying to win again. I feel like after a couple of years I’ve got my game and my confidence back.”

At 144 weeks it was the longest gap between topping the rankings since Chris Evert ended Martina Navratilova’s uninterrupted reign at the summit between the summers of 1982 and 1985.

The decision to continue was quickly justified this year with Davenport winning titles in Dubai and Amelia Island and reaching three more finals before a first real injury scare of the season in Charleston. Those three runner-up placings could hardly have been closer either, for she went down in three sets each time.

Serena Williams somehow played out of this world in the deciding set at the Australian Open, Sharapova only prevailed in a tie-break in Tokyo after Davenport had suffered a slight hamstring strain on the morning of the match and Clijsters was also pushed all the way in Indian Wells.

Davenport had already amassed more than $1million in prizemoney by mid-April, taking her to over $20million in career earnings, and she soon brushed aside the right hip flexor strain suffered in Charleston to win two singles matches and a doubles tie as the United States beat Belgium in the Fed Cup.

So it seems the Californian is now healthy in mind, body and soul, but can she ever again find the reserves needed to claim a second Wimbledon title this summer – and a first Grand Slam victory since the 2000 Australian Open?

Certainly nobody who saw her beat seven-times champion Steffi Graf in the 1999 final would have predicted we would still be waiting for her to follow up that success in SW19.

The US Open had already been won the previous year, but her past exploits on grass had been far less impressive with only two ventures into the last eight to show for seven visits to the All England Club.

But Davenport worked tirelessly to develop her game on turf and all the hours of practice paid off in style.

Defending champion Jana Novotna had already been despatched 6-3 6-4 in the quarter-finals before Davenport outmuscled Graf, the French Open winner that year, for a 6-4 7-5 success and all but sent the German legend into retirement.

The trophy was lifted without a set having been dropped and the tall powerhouse, who stands just over 6ft 2ins, looked set to take the sport to a new level.

“It’s such an overwhelming feeling,” said Davenport, who also won the doubles title alongside compatriot Corina Morariu.

“I struggled for so many years on grass and to finally get better and beat someone who I think is the greatest grass-court player of all time along with Martina Navratilova...it just can’t get any better.”

And on the possibility of further Wimbledon glory the following year she added: “I swear it will be so much fun to come back as champion. You are now a member of the club. You are in history now. I will enjoy it so much next year. I can’t wait.”

Enjoy it she did, with wins over Jennifer Capriati, Monica Seles and Jelena Dokic steering her safely through to a second successive final.

However, in women’s tennis it is rarely long before another starlet begins to shine and that year a fresh-faced 20-year-old in Venus Williams came of age.

Davenport was far from disgraced in going down 6-3 7-6 but here was an upgraded model of her prototype for women’s tennis in the new millennium – also over 6ft, just as hard-hitting and with an added athleticism to complete the perfect package.

Davenport had battled valiantly against niggling leg and back injuries throughout the fortnight but there were no excuses.

With Venus’ younger sister Serena having already bagged a Grand Slam title at the US Open the previous autumn Davenport knew the times were a changing again.

“Considering the circumstances, reaching the final was one of the toughest things I’ve done in my career. That was a great thing that I will take from this tournament,” she said.

“But Venus deserves all the headlines. She and Serena will win more Grand Slam titles as their careers go forward and Venus will definitely be much tougher to beat now she has this one under her belt.

“She hits the ball very hard, possibly the hardest on tour. It’s tough to hang in there and on grass it gets even tougher.”

Venus went on to be Davenport’s nemesis on her next two visits to Wimbledon in 2001 and 2003, with injury ruling out a 2002 return. Both times Davenport rallied from a set down before fading to 6-1 defeats in the deciding set, first in the semi-finals as Venus made it back-to-back titles and then in the quarters two years ago before Serena eventually outstayed her sister in the final.

Last summer it was a case of different player, same old story as Davenport came up short against eventual champion Sharapova in the semi-finals.

After Davenport won the first set 6-2, Sharapova hit back to take the next in a tie-break before the Russian ran out an easy winner in the third – yes, you’ve guessed it – 6-1.

Following the loss to Venus two years ago, Davenport admitted she was already contemplating whether to hang up her racquet as the effects of a lengthening injury list took their toll and an operation on her foot was imminent.

The lure of one more Grand Slam title keeps her coming back for more but the fitness factor will always be a major issue.

The 2003 defeat against Venus was put down to being too anxious at the start of the third set, almost certainly brought on by the inner doubts over her stamina lasting out.

“I was trying to keep the points short and trying to go for shots, whether they were winners or errors,” acknowledged Davenport.

“I felt the longer the points would go would probably benefit her more than me because she could run down a lot more balls.”

Last year a rain delay meant her stamina did not come into question and it was merely that Sharapova found an extra gear when play resumed.

But then came more reflections on whether her future would be about major tournaments or the appealing prospect of “not having to travel and kids”, and again she accepted time is not on her side.

When asked if she had simply lost her edge, Davenport replied: “I’ve always been extremely competitive at everything I’ve done. It’s always been something that’s driven me and kept me practising and kept me out here.

“I’ve always had a lot of pride. It’s always been pretty deep inside me and there’s no question it’s still there. It’s just that it’s not there every day, and physically it just gets tougher and tougher after you’ve done this for so long.”

Clearly she then found a new lease of life during the hard-court season and that has inspired more hunger for success this year. However, the continued resurgence in 2005 has also been dogged by more third-set misery in Melbourne, Tokyo and Indian Wells, even though she edged out unseeded Jelena Jankovic in Dubai after the Serb had levelled the match at one set all.

At the Australian Open, Davenport was also taken the distance three times in reaching the final and that was always going to tell on the big stage.

“At the end I definitely was just overall a bit fatigued,” said Davenport after going down 2-6 6-3 6-0 to Serena Williams.

“It was definitely a physical thing. I was really getting down there for sure, although I’m sure the mental side of things played a part too.

“I just think more than anything, especially in the second week, just a lot of hours on court, just a lot of long, close matches came back to haunt me.”

On the plus side there is plenty of evidence that the major weapons in her armoury – a solid serve, booming forehand and double-handed backhand that rarely misses the mark – are all still as lethal as ever.

A 6-0 6-0 win over Sharapova at the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells showed what Davenport can still achieve when the mood is right.

And the renewed enthusiasm for going on court can be seen in the fact she is even talking about Fed Cup final glory in September after a lengthy absence from the United States team.

She also shrewdly elected to sidestep the clay-court season before the French Open in a bid to stay fresh for more suitable summer targets.

At Wimbledon though, most of the other major players look set to be back firing on all cylinders and Davenport is unlikely to be allowed the luxury of cruising through too many straight-sets victories to keep up her energy levels.

But all those practice hours spent growing accustomed to the unique nuances of grass will not be allowed to go to waste while she is still happy to drag her aching limbs into battle.

“I felt like this is a tournament I struggled at for a few years and wasn’t really sure of the surface,” Davenport once said.

“But I got to really love and enjoy playing here – much more so than some of the other Grand Slams.”

And if you put that into context with what Davenport recently said would be her advice to any kids looking to take up tennis, it all falls into place why win, lose or draw you can always be sure of a good run for your money.

“I’d say the most important thing is to always enjoy what you are doing. You probably won’t get very far if you don’t,” said Davenport. “Also, like what your goals are and always keep things in perspective.”

The goal at Wimbledon will be to reach the final with the minimum of fuss – then get it over with in straight sets.

First Published in Sue Barker's Wimbledon 2005,
July 2005

Elldee
Jun 13th, 2005, 09:48 PM
There's some good pics with the article too. Shame that the biggest ones are her :( ones [not sad but when she's serving or hitting the ball].

RayRob
Jun 13th, 2005, 10:50 PM
Great article....was worried that some pre-wimby articles would put her in a negative/washed-up light but that's a great one!

The article points out how Lindsay has been a fighter but failed to mention anything about the fights she came through at RG, her weaker surface....that surely would have added some depth to the article as opposed to just mentioning that she "skipped" european clay.

I felt for sure that they wouldn't mention the Sharapova double Bagel....with the sun shining through her backside at the All England Club and all, but low and behold, Sue's mag came through and gave it a nice big fat mention! :D

I would really love for Davenport to go out of tennis with a BOOM, at least win one slam out of the next two (preferbly Wimbledon....where she can give me the lifetime membership that comes with that title ;) ), then a Fed Cup win as well as WTA Champs and also keeping hold of number one - I'm not asking for too much am I? ;)

-Rache

Kelly
Jun 13th, 2005, 10:53 PM
lol...i think the mag was published b4 the french but its still a great artical. i like sue barker...she seems tolike lindsay so thats all good....now just need to keep her away from andy lol

*timtams*
Jun 14th, 2005, 10:14 AM
:mad: :fiery: Sue, although she is fab.....is after MY andy ( :smash: not yours kelly.... mine :bounce: )

I wonder if she got her dinner!

Golinds
Jun 14th, 2005, 10:39 AM
There is another article in the magazine further on where Lindsay is talking about equal prize money for both the men and the women...i cant find it online though :(