Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ex-Capital Davenport makes winning return

CoCo Vandeweghe, left, of the Sacramento Capitals, visits with
close friend and mentor Lindsay Davenport of the visiting Orange
County Breakers before Tuesday's World TeamTennis match.
Photo by Paul Bauman 
   Lindsay Davenport had a humorous flashback when she arrived at the Marriott hotel in the Sacramento suburb of Rancho Cordova on Tuesday afternoon.
   The Marriott was her home away from home as a 17-year-old rookie with the Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis in 1993.
   "We lost in the playoffs, and one guy on the team was so mad, he was breaking rackets in the parking lot," the 36-year-old legend recalled before her Orange County Breakers defeated the Capitals 19-16 Tuesday night in a Western Conference showdown at Sunrise Mall. "I'm 17 at the time, and I'm thinking, Oh, God."
   Davenport would not name the perpetrator.
   "I'm not outing him," she said with a laugh.
  Despite a star-studded lineup, Sacramento lost for the fourth time in five matches and fell into a first-place tie with Orange County at 5-6 in the Western Conference. The teams meet again Wednesday night in Irvine. The top two clubs in each of the four-team conferences advance to the playoffs, Sept. 14-16 in Charleston, S.C.
   The trim, 6-foot-2 Davenport won 5-1 in the opening set (mixed doubles) and 5-2 in the fourth set (women's doubles with former Cal star Jana Juricova). But she lost both games she played as a substitute in the second set (women's singles).
The Capitals' Kevin Anderson, a 6-foot-8 South African
ranked 33rd in the world, made his WTT debut Tuesday.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Kevin Anderson, a 6-foot-8 South African ranked 33rd in the world, and Vania King, ranked 56th in singles and fifth in doubles, made their WTT and season debuts, respectively, for the Capitals.
   King, who has played the last two seasons for Sacramento after being named the 2009 WTT Female MVP for Springfield,  won 5-0 in women's singles to get the Capitals back in the match. Sacramento led 11-9 at intermission, but Davenport and Juricova defeated King and CoCo Vandeweghe in women's doubles to give Orange County a 14-13 lead entering the last set.
   Vandeweghe, 20, played her second match for the Capitals after reaching the final of the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford as a lucky loser to reach a career-high No. 69 in the world. She is a close friend and protege of Davenport.
   John-Patrick Smith, a 23-year-old Australian left-hander, beat Anderson 5-3 in men's singles to wrap up Orange County's victory.
   At first glance, Anderson was the heavy favorite in the set. He has 91 match victories on the ATP World Tour to none for the 217th-ranked Smith, who turned pro last month following his senior season at Tennessee. But this wasn't the ATP World Tour. Having played all season for the Breakers, Smith was much more accustomed to WTT's lightning-fast pace. Plus, he's left-handed, another adjustment for Anderson.
   "It was tricky playing my first (WTT) match against a lefty," Anderson conceded. "He was serving well, and the format goes so quickly."        
Davenport, 36, is a lock to be inducted into the Inter-
national Tennis Hall of Fame when she becomes
eligible, probably next year. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Davenport, in contrast, is in her 10th WTT season. She won the league's Female Rookie of the Year award in 1993, plus Female MVP honors in 1997 for Sacramento and 2010 for St. Louis. She helped the Capitals win three of their record six league titles -- in 1997, 1998 and 2007.
   On the regular tour, Davenport reached No. 1 in the world in singles and doubles; won 55 career titles in singles, including three Grand Slam crowns, and 37 in doubles; and earned the singles gold medal in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. She is a lock to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I., probably when she becomes eligible next year. Her down-to-earth personality, unfailing cooperation with the media and generally impeccable character don't hurt her case.
   "Of course, I had a great career, but I don't miss it," Davenport said. "It's not like injuries took me out in my 20s. I'm 36 now. My first Slam (title) was in 1999. I've had a lot of years to appreciate my career ... so I enjoy going back now. I never got to enjoy those tournaments. I felt a lot of anxiety and pressure to win."
   Davenport winced when asked whether her Olympic gold medal or one of her three Grand Slam singles titles means the most to her. She won the U.S. Open in 1998, Wimbledon in 1999 and Australian Open in 2000.
   "It's so tough," she said. "The Olympics is the one event I have the least clear memory of. It was literally so surreal. The U.S. Open was a really big deal. I felt a lot of pressure because I hadn't won a Grand Slam title. It was definitely the most important. It came at a needed time. I was 22. It felt the best."
   Davenport reached four other Grand Slam finals and 11 other semifinals in singles.
   "Shoulda, woulda coulda won more Slams," she lamented. "I got close a couple of times. That's the way it went. Some days, I say, Gosh, I won three Slams. Other days, I say, I should have won five."   
   Davenport will be watching when the London Olympics begin Friday.
   "The Olympics are such a great event," she said. "I love the opening ceremonies. For me, it was almost like a blur winning in Atlanta. It happened so fast; it was almost like a dream. I'm excited to watch what happens in London."
   Davenport's father, Wink, played volleyball in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Vandeweghe's mother, Tauna, swam in the 1976 Games in Montreal and was an alternate on the U.S. volleyball team in 1984 in Los Angeles.
   That's just one of many similarities between Davenport and Vandeweghe. Both are tall (Vandeweghe is 6-foot-1), grew up in Southern California, won the U.S. Open girls singles title at 16 and made their WTT debut with the Capitals the following year.
   Comparing herself at 20 to Vandeweghe, Davenport said: "She's by far a better server; I was a better ball-striker. For both of us, our movement will never be our strength. I'm so proud of her being a (finalist as a) lucky loser. I'm very fond of her. We're close.
   "I want her to do more. I think she can be a much better player by doing a few subtle things. She hits a heavy ball and can build points better off the ground; she pulls the trigger too soon. She has a great serve and can use it better. She can build points better."
   Vandeweghe said Davenport "has been a great friend to me. She put me in touch with (former Capital) Robert Van't Hof, who coached me for a while. She let me stay at her house (in Laguna Beach) when I came up (from Carlsbad in the San Diego area) to hit with my coach. Anytime I need advice, she's always there for me. To have my idol there for me is pretty cool, I have to say."
   These days, Davenport spends her time taking care of her three young children with husband Jonathan, commentating for Tennis Channel and playing WTT and a few exhibitions. Broadcasting gives Davenport a chance to stay close to the pro tours.
   "I legitimately love tennis," she said. "I didn't necessarily love the pressure and playing in front of people. I was self-conscious. If I could have played on a club court, I would have played forever."
   ATP World Tour in Los Angeles -- Paolo Lorenzi of Italy defeated qualifier Bradley Klahn, the 2010 NCAA champion who completed his eligibility at Stanford in May, 6-4, 3-6, 6-0 in the first round of the Farmers Classic. 
Orange County 19,Capitals 16
In Citrus Heights, Calif.
   Mixed doubles -- Lindsay Davenport-John-Patrick Smith (Breakers) def. Vania King-Mark Knowles (Capitals) 5-1 (Knowles substituted for Kevin Anderson at 0-1).
   Women's singles -- Vania King (Capitals) def. Lindsay Davenport (Breakers) 5-0 (Davenport substituted for Jana Juricova at 0-3, 0-2).
   Men's doubles -- Kevin Anderson-Mark Knowles (Capitals) def. Travis Parrott-John-Patrick Smith (Breakers) 5-4 (5-2 tiebreaker).
   Women's doubles -- Lindsay Davenport-Jana Juricova (Breakers) def. Vania King-CoCo Vandeweghe (Capitals) 5-2.
   Men's singles -- John-Patrick Smith (Breakers) def. Kevin Anderson (Capitals), 5-3.
(All times PDT)
   Thursday -- Los Angeles (men), early rounds, Tennis Channel, 2-6 p.m. (live), 7:30-9:30 p.m. (live).
   Friday -- Kitzbuhel (men), semifinals, Tennis Channel, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (delay); Los Angeles (men), quarterfinals, Tennis Channel, 2-6 p.m. (live), 7:30-9:30 p.m. (live).
   Wednesday -- World TeamTennis, Sacramento Capitals (with Kevin Anderson, Vania King and CoCo Vandeweghe) at Orange County, 7 p.m.
   Friday -- Philadelphia (with Mark Philippoussis) at Capitals (with Anderson and Vandeweghe), Sunrise Marketplace Outdoor Pavilion, Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights, 7:35 p.m., http://www.saccaps.com/.
   Saturday -- Boston at Capitals (with Anderson and Vandeweghe), Sunrise Marketplace Outdoor Pavilion, Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights, 7:35 p.m., http://www.saccaps.com/.
   Saturday-Aug. 5 -- OLYMPIC TENNIS TOURNAMENT, Wimbledon, www.london2012.com.

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