NOTE: LINDSAY DAVENPORT IS NOW THE COACH OF MADISON KEYS. THE 20-YEAR-OLD KEYS WILL FACE SERENA ON SUNDAY.
By Matthew Cronin
SEPTEMBER, 2001, US OPEN:
Playing her best tennis since she dominated the field at the Australian Open eight months ago, No. 2 Lindsay Davenport knocked defending champion Serena Williams 6-4, 6-2 out of the U.S. Open in the quarterfinals with a mind-boggling display of heavy groundstrokes and return of serves, snuffing out the thought of an all-Williams final.
Williams was hoping to win her first Slam title of 2000 here and meet her older sister Venus in the final. Davenport and No. 1 Martina Hingis had joked together that they didn’t want to see an all-Williams final and Serena was none too pleased to hear that.
“That’s the way a lot of people would want it,” Serena said. “I’m sure a lot people never want an all-Williams final. It’s going to happen in the future inevitably. Nobody’s going to be able to stop it. Unfortunately, I didn’t pull up my end this year. Obviously, no one would want to see an All-Williams final because everybody doesn’t really like us.”
Davenport said that she and Hingis were merely engaging in some friendly locker room banter. “Martina and I get a long very well and joke around,” said Davenport, who was 1-5 against Serena entering the match. “She was just giving me a hard time” ‘Okay, you have to beat her, finally. You never win. Beat her. It wasn’t serious talk….I think Martina feels she sides with me against them.”
Is Davenport pulling for Hingis to win her semifinal against Venus on Friday?
“Martina’s fun too joke with,” said Davenport, who will play Elena Dementieva in the semis. “Venus doesn’t talk to me much. Serena I don’t see that much. She’s a little bit more friendly, maybe. But Martina and I have talked for many years and I have a better rapport with her.”
Davenport, the ’98 U.S. Open champ, gained a measure of sweet revenge for her loss to Serena in last year’s semis by not allowing her younger and fleeter foe to draw her into long, physically demanding rallies. Davenport served effectively, jumped on her opponent’s second serve and pounded heavy blows up the middle and into the corners. Her coach, Robert Van’t Hoff, advised her not to give Serena too many balls to take running swings at.
“He thought I should play to the same spot in the court a lot before I went to the open court,” Davenport said. “Serena is very quick. I didn’t want to mix it up because she gets into a groove that way. He said, ‘Keep the balls deep.'”
For her part, Serena failed to make critical mid-match adjustments, never varying her strategy and falling into Davenport’s trap.
“I didn’t really hit my backhand well, my forehand well and I wasn’t serving very well,” Serena said. “It was like I was out there going through the motions. That’s the best she ever played against me. She should take that attitude toward everyone.”
In full health for the first time since early March, the tall Southern Californian moved extremely well against Williams, frequently chasing down her opponents blasts. She also dissected Serena’s serve with the a surgeon’s precision.
“It was such a frustrating four to five months in the middle of the year,” Davenport said. “It feel great to play at 100 percent and not have to worry about injuries. I haven’t had this freedom on court in a year.”