NEWPORT Lindsay Davenport travels the world as a TV commentator for Tennis Channel. Without a visit to Paris in June for the French Open or London in July for Wimbledon, Davenport is happy to go to Queens, New York for the US Open in August.
We’ve talked about it so many times in the past few months, Davenport, one of the great women’s professional tennis players in America, said in a conference call with the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
The ATP and WTA tours for men and women were closed all over the world in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, taking players off the track. The corona virus has lost billions of dollars in revenue by earning awards, salaries, television rights, media rights and ticket sales, concessions. Not to mention the duties of all the dutiful background staff, from civil servants to ball boys and girls.
“I know how hard the USTA has worked to try to create some sort of meaningful event that is safe for everyone involved, not just the players, but the staff,” Davenport said of the start of the US Open on August 24 at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center, albeit without fans and less than a week in pre-tournament qualifying rounds.
There is nothing normal going on and everything will be different for the time being, Davenport said from her home in California. Even looking ahead, how we play tournaments, how people travel, how fans can get close to players, everything changes.
I applaud the USTA. for this tournament to take place. I was amazed to learn about planning, decision-making, and all meetings. My fingers are crossed that they can do this.
Davenport is one of only five women’s professional tennis players to be ranked # 1 four times at the end of the season, sharing the honors with Serena Williams, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Steffi Graf at the end of the season.
Davenport turned professional in 1993 after completing high school and bypassing a collegiate career at Stanford. She has won 55 singles titles and 38 doubles titles during her career, as a finalist in 10 Grand Slam tournaments as a member of the 2014 Inductees of the Hall of Fame.
The success of Davenports singles came in a tight three-year period when she won the 1998 US Open, 1999 Wimbledon Ladies Singles Championship and Australian Open 2000 all in straight sets.
In a 17-year career (1993-2010), Davenport played many games with a showy record of 753-194 in singles and a record of 387-116 in doubles, being one of only eight women with 700 career wins or more.
Now after all these months of nothing, I think the players just want to play, Davenport said of the men’s and women’s tour. It will be weird, it will take some getting used to on such a big stage, but it will be presented without playing fans or playing a Grand Slam, for prize money, for something meaningful, if I’m a current player, I’m going to try without fans.
Davenport played from the baseline and built her game on a two-handed backhand with a powerful forehand. And at 6 feet in length, hitting the ball was always something that was very natural to me, Davenport said. It took me a long time to put that together, probably 20 years after I first started playing. But that made it so much fun, was the sound, what I could do with the recordings, see how hard I could hit them.
Davenport fully understands ATP and WTA players’ concerns about safety and travel during a proposed fall calendar, including the French Open in September, a clay court season, and a slew of women’s tournaments in China afterward.
The players have full rights, Davenport said of many possible opt-out submissions. It has always been a sport that players can play when they want, they don’t have to play, she added. I don’t think (penalties for not showing up) will be the case if the player is uncomfortable with New York guidelines or the climate in August. They don’t have to come, they can’t play.
Until we have a vaccine, until life returns to normal, you will have to let the players play where they want to play and play where they feel safe and everyone will have to accept that.
Davenport won the gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and played in the US Federation Cup team for 10 years, leading the Americans to titles in 1996, 1999, and 2000.
Clearly, the (pandemic) surprised us, it caught us by surprise, Davenport said. Everyone has tried to adapt to a different way of life, a different way of doing almost everything from home to work.
Davenport has four children, ranging from kindergarten to seventh grade.
We’ve tried not to make this way of life stressful and as normal as possible, she said. I had my hands full and we celebrated when school was officially over.
She couldn’t even take a shuttle and then down the street to the swimming and tennis club for exercise and entertainment.
I’ve always wanted to play (tennis), Davenport said of her childhood experiences of swimming, soccer and volleyball, ending with a camp at the local California swimming and tennis club. It became a kind of way of life. I discovered that by chance.
There was a wall at the club, I would hit the wall, I couldn’t get the racket out of my hands. It was a long process to believe in myself. That kind put me on a path that luckily I never got off.
It gave me opportunities I never knew existed. It gave me a goal. It kept me out of trouble. I was too busy practicing. I was blessed to get to know the sport when I was five or six years old. Tennis has given me my whole life.