Originally created 08/13/02

Davenport sees herself as potential U.S. Open spoiler



MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. -- Lindsay Davenport's fears about coming back from knee surgery and not being good enough to be successful are over.

Since returning to tennis three weeks ago, Davenport reached the semifinals in two tournaments and lost to Chanda Rubin in the finals of the JPMorgan Chase Open on Sunday.

"I'm happy with what's happening," Davenport said. "It's tough not playing for a lot of months, but winning matches and beating a lot of good players along the way is going to give me confidence."

Davenport finished last year ranked No. 1 in the world, but injured her right knee in November. She was off the WTA Tour for seven months recovering and rehabilitating after having surgery in January.

Her biggest fear was not being able to play again. Her second fear was being mediocre.

"I've been in the top three for five years. I didn't want to come back out here and be like a top-40 player," she said.

Davenport's concerns went away when she beat fifth-ranked Jelena Dokic in her first tournament back at Stanford last month. She was up a set and 4-2 in the second against No. 6 Kim Clijsters when she started thinking how easy it was, and wound up losing in three sets.

"It was really important to get off to a good start," she said. "If you start off coming back from an injury not playing well, sometimes it just keeps snowballing to where you lose all your confidence."

Davenport is ranked ninth, the result of special consideration by the WTA Tour for being injured. It allows her a higher seeding in tournaments than she would normally receive with such a ranking.

The knee is giving Davenport no problems. She's compiled a 9-3 record in her first three tournaments. One of those losses came against second-ranked Venus Williams, who beat her 6-2, 6-1 in Carlsbad, Calif., on Aug. 3.

"I was totally not ready at that point," Davenport said.

She avoided having to play top-ranked Serena Williams and No. 3 Jennifer Capriati in Manhattan Beach when both were knocked out in the quarterfinals.

Davenport is taking this week off after playing three consecutive weeks in California. She'll play in New Haven, Conn., as a final tuneup for the U.S. Open, which begins Aug. 26.

"I feel like I could definitely be the spoiler for a lot of things," she said. "I should be hanging around until the later rounds."

That's where she will likely find the Williams sisters and possibly Capriati, who hasn't won a tournament since the Australian Open in January.

A bigger question than Davenport in New York will be Martina Hingis, off the circuit since having ankle surgery in May. She's requested a wild card into the U.S. Open.

Serena Williams beat older sister, Venus, in the finals of the French Open and Wimbledon, and doesn't see much other competition for the year's final Grand Slam event.

"I would like to have a rematch with Venus at the Open because we'll play on a hard court and it'll bring out the best of our games," she said. "It was really fun playing at Wimbledon and it will be great to play again at the Open."

Davenport calls herself an underdog, a label she admits sounds funny for a three-time Grand Slam champion.

"I really felt that at Stanford and was so happy to win my first match," she said. "I didn't want to throw this year away, but I certainly was not putting a lot of emphasis on. It was to come back and do well and not worry about the rankings, but just have fun."