Hall of Fame a reality for Davenport
NEW YORK -- Lindsay Davenport will be enshrined into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in July, and that fact comes as a bigger surprise to no one else.
"I have to admit that growing up playing tennis, getting to the Hall of Fame was never really even in my dreams," Davenport said after receiving the news. "It seemed a little bit too big for me. I'll never forget after winning my second Grand Slam, Bud Collins said to me, 'Well, darling, I got to tell you, I think you're going to get in the Hall of Fame now.' That was the first time I ever really thought of that."
Davenport first reached No. 1 in 1998, and last held the top spot in 2006, and she won three Grand Slam singles titles during those years. She also won Olympic gold in '96. From 1994 to '99, she was in the year-end top 10 among doubles teams, and was one of six women to hold the No. 1 singles and doubles spots simultaneously.
Davenport said the 1998 US Open victory, her first Grand Slam title, may have been the highlight of her career.
"I was able to achieve my dream, and it was so overwhelming to me," Davenport said. "Even on the court, I cried. I couldn't do anything but cry. It was hard for me to even smile. That was the biggest moment in my career, certainly the most fun."
At 6-foot-2, Davenport had a powerful serve and a long reach. At times, she moved well, and at others, her long limbs didn't seem to entirely cooperate. She could be slow, particularly around the fleet-footed Martina Hingis, and the two played some epic matches, with Davenport winning 14 of 25.
Davenport was not the dominant player of her generation; there were simply too many great players in the '90s and early 2000s. In 1999, Davenport beat Steffi Graf for the Wimbledon title in straight sets. Davenport challenged Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Hingis, Jennifer Capriati and Monica Seles.
Her lifestyle, by comparison to some of her peers, was almost dull. She didn't really call out other players, and was far too smart to get trapped by a baited question. She appeared to live a stable life despite the rigors of the WTA Tour.
"I know everyone likes to say I was one of the more normal stories -- it's true," Davenport said. "I found tennis by accident. I had two parents who were athletic but involved in other sports. They didn't pretend to know much about the sport. They didn't try to coach me. They just tried to support me as athletic parents. They instilled in me I think the same kind of rules that any teenager would have, even though I was a professional, making more money than they were."
And that leads us to where we are. Davenport didn't come to New York for the Hall of Fame announcement because she has been cocooned after giving birth to a daughter, her fourth child with husband and former player Jonathan Leach. She keeps a hand in tennis by doing some commentary.
"For me, I always loved to play tennis," Davenport said. "I have to say I didn't love the limelight or the press or anything that went with it. So for me to kind of go into a little bit more obscurity was just fine. I was also extremely blessed. I had been married for five years and we started a family. I have transitioned -- I believe -- into that life quite well and quite happily."