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Injuries take their toll on Davenport

Lindsay Davenport may be concerned as much with motivation and avoiding injury as regaining the title at Wimbledon.

tennis Updated: Jun 19, 2003 10:30 IST

Lindsay Davenport may be concerned as much with motivation and avoiding injury as regaining the title when Wimbledon fortnight begins on Monday.

The 1999 champion with the laid-back attitude and easy smile has endured 18 difficult months since a knee injury that required surgery in January last year.

She lost in her first match at the Eastbourne Wimbledon warm-up event on Wednesday and looked sluggish and out-of-sorts.

"It's been a struggle to get motivated," Davenport said after losing 6-4 3-6 7-6 to the 28th-ranked Silvia Farina Elia.

"It's the grand slams that excite me, hopefully that will inspire me at Wimbledon," she added.

The tall American missed the first six months of 2002, including the Australian and French Opens and Wimbledon, before making a tentative comeback in the Fed Cup last July.

It was not the first time the 26-year-old's bid to win back the number one spot and grab another grand slam had been curtailed by the stresses and strains of the sport.

"It seems my body breaks down more often than it used to," she complained at Eastbourne.


In 1999 she sprained her left wrist in training and finished the season number two.

In 2000 she suffered lower back strain and was out for much of the claycourt season.

In 2001 she missed more than two months with the start of the knee injury and suffered again from wrist tendinitis but still finished top.

Only last month her attempt at the one grand slam title to have eluded her so far collapsed when she was forced to withdraw from a French Open fourth-round match against Conchita Martinez with a toe problem.

"It's terribly frustrating," Davenport said with uncharacteristic bitterness after that match, adding that the pain had been dogging her for a month before Roland Garros.

On Wednesday she said she would need an operation to remove a nerve in the toe later in the year but she was not feeling pain at the moment.

Davenport is not a quitter by nature. She made the semi-finals of the U.S. Open in her first grand slam after the knee operation, going out to eventual winner Serena Williams, and lost a gutsy 7-5 5-7 9-7 match against world number three Justine Henin-Hardenne at the Australian Open last January.

In Paris she said she wanted to play as many slams as she could. "But the more years you play the less and less chance you have at the slams."


Davenport has criticised the length of the season -- barely have the players packed up in November or even December than they are back playing warm-up tournaments for the Australian Open in mid-January.

"Any time you ask players to compete 10-11 months of the year, you are really asking for trouble and I think injuries have crept up more and more," she said earlier this year.

Davenport came to the fulltime professional game relatively late after insisting on finishing high school.

Her relaxed, mature attitude is refreshing in a sport with more than its fair share of over-anxious teenage prodigies, pushy parents and burn-out victims.

She got married last April and in the run-up to the wedding had the confidence and assertiveness to sack her coach -- and future brother-in-law -- Rick Leach, because she did not think he was working her hard enough.

While few might bet on her chances of beating the Williams sisters or the in-form Belgian duo of Kim Clijsters and French Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne, Davenport's 1.90-metre frame, powerful serve and long reach make her a natural on grass.

Both Venus and Serena Williams demonstrated a certain fragility at the French Open and neither Belgian has a real grasscourt pedigree.

With a shot of motivation that only the big stages can inspire, bones that do not let her down and a touch of luck, Davenport could fight through.

She certainly plans to give it a go. "I will get some more practice here in the doubles. If the weather improves for Wimbledon I can enjoy playing there. I really did miss it last year."

"It's going to take a lot to turn my game around...but I have a chance," she said.

First Published: Jun 19, 2003 10:30 IST