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Davenport still hungry for more glory
By Edwin Ashie-Nikoi

21 February 2006

DUBAI — Former world number one Lindsay Davenport is still hungry to win more championships despite the emergence of young and athletic tennis players on the women’s circuit.

The 29-year-old American, speaking to the media at the Aviation Club here yesterday said: “I want to accomplish more as I am still enjoying the game. But there are more young players on the scene who are fitter and more athletic. They play harder.”

But Davenport, seeded second here this year, strongly feels she can stand up to the challenge. “I feel better than I was five years ago and been more consistent. I have also got used to the pace more”, she said. The American believes she holds an advantage over the opposition as she prefers to play on grass which most of the other players do not.

Davenport, the defending champion in the DDF Women’s Open Tennis Championship which started here yesterday, said the tournament would not be easy this time. “A lot of good players are here and they are consistent performers.

Talking about the women’s tour, Davenport, who has career earnings of over $21 million, said there should be at least five big tournaments a year to accommodate the great players as people want to see some of the best players in the world in action. “Seventeen to 18 tournaments a year is too much. The best players have to play against each other for quality,” she said.

On her plans for the season, Davenport says she hopes to do a lot this year. “I am looking forward to things a little better this year and to stay with the pack. If all goes well, to play more consistently,” she said.

The American is surprised to be in such a devastating form and to be still in the ranking. “I am always amazed to be in the ranking. But that urges me to continue to play.” Davenport, however, says she gets a lot of support from her husband on her busy tour schedule.

Maria Sharapova

A former world No1, who is making her debut in the DDF Women’s Open is determined to win the title on her first appearance. “Though this tournament is not a Grand Slam, I want to win it.”

Sharapova, seeded third here, says she would use the tournament to face some of the best players in the world and to improve on her game. “I really have to go out and play. I still feel like a rookie but I am improving.”

The 18-year-old Russian, winner of the Wimbledon women’s title in 2004, was lost for words how she achieved that feat. I do not know how I won it. It was something unexpected at my young age at the time. I am not sure I was mentally and physically prepared for that.” She admits it is too tough to be at the top. “Physically and mentally, it is not easy”.

Justine Henin-Hardenne

Justine Henin-Hardenne, the champion here in her last two trips in 2003 and 2004, feels she is getting better after her shoulder injury and stomach problems that forced her to quit her final match in the Australian Open. “It is nice to be back. Dubai holds a lot of memories for me. I want to go step by step in this championship. I have a lot of pains and have not played for four months. But after the first round, I can see how far I can advance in the tournament,” she said

The 23-year-old Belgian, seeded fifth here, is determined to push herself a little more over the years. “I am still working hard as I want to play a couple of more years.

“I want to take care of myself and be more relaxed as there is a lot pressure in the game,” she added.
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