Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Farewell, Lindsay--we'll miss you like crazy

Lindsay Davenport hasn't yet used to "r" word, but she is pregnant, and says she "can't imagine" playing tennis again.

The three-time Grand Slam winner and holder of an Olympic gold medal has won 51 singles titles and 36 doubles titles in her very illustrious career, was ranked number one in the world for a total of 98 weeks, and gave lessons on sportswomanship just by showing up. Davenport has won so many awards, I couldn't begin to list them here. And it is just like her to find a way to get out of doing a farewell tour or even playing in a farewell tournament. Instead, she is just quietly going away, which is how Lindsay Davenport does things.

For her die-hard fans, this personal good news is a bit hard to take. Davenport's Slam wins came several years ago, when she wasn't playing as well as she has played for the last few years, even after suffering a severe injury that took her out for months. But she has sustained many more injuries, and has also had some of the worst luck of any top player. 2004 should have been her year (in terms of Slams--it was her year, otherwise), but things happened. 2005 should have been her year, but more things happened.

The freak foot injury in the 2004 U.S. Open semifinal, after she had won the entire U.S. Open series and was a shoo-in to take the title, was the first really bad piece of luck. The heat exhaustion in the 2005 Australian Open final, after she had played both singles and doubles to the bitter end to support her cancer-recovering friend Corina Morariu, was the next. Then came her heart-breaking loss to Venus Williams in the thriller 2005 Wimbledon final, in which Davenport held a match point.

After that, it was one injury after another, and the worst one wasn't physical--it was Sony Ericsson WTA Tour executive director Larry Scott's decision to deny her a couple of crucial wild cards when the rules permitted him to give them to her. She has talked about taking legal action against Scott, but I don't know if that is relevant now.

Davenport's huge serve, powerful, pinpoint returns, and remarkably clean groundstrokes made her a standout on every court but clay, and she wasn't half bad on that surface. She was an articulate spokeswoman for women in sports, and a fair-minded, good-humored opponent. And other than posing for a "Got milk?" ad, Davenport showed good judgment and wisdom in practically everything she did in her career. We all assumed 2006 would be her last year, and some of us still hoped there would be one more Slam win. Now she is gone from the courts, just like that, and it is going to take a long time for many of us to accept her absence. I, for one, am very sad to see her go.

7 Comments:

I thought I read today that she was retiring. I thought of you, and wondered what you'd make of it!

By Anonymous KathyF, at 1:58 PM  

I'm sad. And disappointed that her game improved so much, but she was denied her fourth, and even fifth, Slam.

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