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Article Published: Monday, August 04, 2003 - 9:05:27 PM PST

OPEN: Injuries get to Davenport
Still A Standout

By Joe Stevens
Staff writer

Lindsay Davenport looked awkward. She was chubby and every so often, giggled when she was asked questions. Being a native of a Palos Verdes, the awkwardness seemed endearing and even seemed to spur on the Southern California crowd that was behind her.
That was back in 1992, when Davenport made her debut at the JP Morgan Chase Open at age 16.

Now, Davenport still is a fan favorite in the tennis tournament in Carson. But instead of being awed by the veteran players she saw in '92, other players are awed by her. As Davenport prepares to play in her 11th JPMorgan Chase Open this week, she looked to her future, which could included retirement "in a year or two from now.'

"I don't know exactly when it will happen,' Davenport said of her retirement. "I know that I think more about it now than I used to. I'm just going to go until I feel it's time to stop. I can say that I would be surprised if I were here in three years.'

Although she is Lindsay Davenport in the tennis world, she is legally Lindsay Leach, after being wed in April to an investment banker, Jon Leach.

Marriage has made the tennis player put her life in perspective, and perhaps that is why she brought up retirement Monday and at one point said, "I don't have that long left.'

"We both talk more about my life after tennis and the excitement of a family and our lives and the future more,' Davenport said. "(Having a family) is an exciting thing to look forward to, and I'm really excited about that.'

Although she has won just one tournament this year, the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Japan in January, she has had a solid year. She is ranked No. 4 in the world, despite being bothered by an inflamed nerve in her left foot for the past five months.

The foot injury forced her to withdraw from the Bank of the West Classic two weeks ago in Stanford, but she recovered last week to advance to the semifinals of the Acura Classic in Carlsbad.

That nagging foot injury, coupled with arthroscopic knee surgery that forced her to miss six months last season, have had their effects.

"It's tough,' Davenport said. "I'm 27 now, and a lot of injuries have crept into my body. Going all over the world for four to six weeks at a time is not something I look forward to anymore, and going to some of these other places far around the world is not exciting anymore.'

The tournaments that she says excite her are the majors and the ones in California. She has won the JPMorgan Open three times.

Davenport has the No. 2 seed, behind 20-year-old Belgian star Kim Clijsters, who is ranked second in the world. With No. 1 Serena Williams out because of left knee surgery, Clijsters is in an opportunistic position to claim the top ranking, despite never winning a major tournament.

Clijsters can take over at No. 1 if she wins the tournament and her opponents are ranked high enough to give her bonus points in the rankings. The prospect of Clijsters moving up to No. 1 is a hot topic at the Home Depot Center, even though she downplayed the possibility.

"There's always if, if, if,' Clijsters said. "It's something that you always work for, but it's something that when I'm out on the court that I wouldn't feel comfortable if I kept thinking about it. I have to go out there with the same attitude no matter what.'

Other players of note at this week's tournament are third- seeded Chanda Rubin, fourth- seeded Ai Sugiyama and fifth- seeded Jelena Dokic. Rubin is defending her title, but the open is relocated, having moved from Manhattan Country Club.

On Monday, many players gawked at the Home Depot Center's 8,500-seat size.

"So far, it's big that's my first impression,' Rubin said. "It's pretty spread out, so it will be interesting to see how the courts play. Practice is one thing, but when you play it's different. There was a lot of glare out there, but it looks like a great facility.'
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