December 15, 2007

Lindsay Davenport’s remarkable return

Thomas Kieller

Lindsay Davenport is back on the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) circuit.

Quebec City, November 4, 2007 at 9:45 – On the central court of the Challenge Bell tournament, the stands are empty. Everything looks normal. Was it really normal? Lindsay Davenport is starting her morning training in preparation for the final that she will play in the afternoon. She exchanges shots with her physical trainer. Right-handed strokes and backhands are succeeding one after the other. Ten minutes later, the rhythm increases. The powerful shots follow.

If we go back to one year ago, Lindsay announced, in December 2006, that she is pregnant and that she was leaving tennis. For how long? Nobody knew… It is most probable that even she did not know at the time! Was it retirement for the ex-world number one? Time showed us the opposite.

Mommy Davenport gave birth to her first child on June 10, 2007. After two months of convalescence, she came back to the professional tennis scene. Astonishment from the fans and surprise on the side of the media! She launched her return with a double in company of her American partner Lisa Raymond. No successes as far as the results are concerned. They went down in the first round of the New Haven tournament in the United States. Nevertheless, this match was probably a preparation for her real return in singles.

During the International of Bali in Indonesia, she imposed herself against the best tennis players. She defeated, in three sets, Jelena Jankovic, 3rd in the world. For the final, she had the upper hand on the Slovak Daniela Hantuchova, 12th in the world, in a disputed match. Three months after she gave birth, she got a WTA title in singles. Encouraging for the future!

But what motivated Lindsay to comeback so quickly at the professional level? Lindsay affirmed during a press conference in Quebec City that the hours spent on the tennis court are for her leisure time. Yah! She offers herself some entertainment against professional players. She’s that good!

We must not forget that Davenport has an extraordinary curriculum in tennis. During all of the week of the Challenge Bell tournament, she proved her exceptional tennis qualities. She crushed the German Angelique Kerber. She pulverised the local favourite Aleksandra Wozniak. She gave a lesson to the Frenchwoman Stéphanie Foretz. Then, she defeated the Russian Vera Zvonareva in a contested semi-final match.

Like she says it so well, tennis is always, for her, a passion. However, her son and her family are in the forefront. Let’s go back to her training. At 10:15, the nanny and the son Jagger arrived on the court. Laddie is well wrapped up in a stroller. Mom takes a break on the spot to see if her son is well. She talks a little bit with the nanny, native from California. Everything goes well in the best of all possible worlds.

Mom resumes her training. Between service returns, she takes a glance to the side where Jagger is. He is playing with the nanny on a table.

A moment of serious time… Let’s talk tennis. Lindsay made her comeback in August 2007. She took part in three tournaments in singles. Is it not a sign that she’s working on her game for 2008? She already won against tough players. Will it be the same during a Grand Slam? Will she be able to overcome the Belgian Justine Henin? Let’s wait. 2008 will be interesting.

At the same time as the completion of this article, Lindsay is finishing her training by doing a series of services: 40 on the right side and 40 on the other side. Concerning laddie, he is well into his baby bottle full of milk. The nanny is doing a great job. Mom is in a good mood and she has a confident look. It is possible to see clearly that for Lindsay the priorities have changed and that it was a personal choice to combine tennis and family.

Note: For the purpose of this article, Lindsay won the final of the Challenge Bell tournament by beating easily the Ukrainian Julia Vakulenko by the score of 6-4, 6-1.