8:15 PM EST, March 3, 2014
Lindsay Davenport has been elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Knowing her, when word got out, she probably asked for a recount, just to make sure she hadn't bumped out somebody else more deserving.
She is 37 now, lives in Orange County, is married to Jon Leach of the famed USC tennis family of dad and coach Dick Leach and longtime pro doubles star Rick Leach, Jon's brother. Jon was a USC All-American and is now an investment banker.
Davenport had her fourth child in January and was notified of her Hall of Fame selection as she was about to give birth. The ceremony will be in July in Newport, R.I.
In a conference call announcing the news Monday, she described her life as a trilogy: First growing up, then tennis, now mom's days.
She won three major tournaments, plus an Olympic gold medal, and nearly joined a select group with a lifetime Grand Slam and an Olympic gold by getting to the French Open semifinals in 1998.
Like most North Americans, she hated the clay surface at Roland Garros. As a person, she hated little else.
She played in a sport that mostly eats its young. That didn't happen to her. Her incredible success included 98 weeks as No. 1. It also included getting through all that with an uncommon normalcy and sunny perspective. That may not have served her well on the dog-eat-dog pro tour, but it always separated her from so many peers who measured self-esteem only by their ranking.
As a high school player, Davenport's nickname was "Double-Bagel," a tennis term for 6-0, 6-0 victories. She had many, but the nickname was bestowed for her efforts to give away a game to overmatched opponents in obvious routs.
Her longtime coach, Robert Van't Hof, once capsulized what was special about his student.
"Lindsay is pretty much what everybody sees," he said. "She has a lot of friends. She likes a lot of people."
Davenport said Monday that she found tennis "by accident," and loved playing it ever since.
Her parents, Wink and Ann, were both volleyball players; Wink was good enough to play for the U.S. in the '68 Olympics. When Ann went to play tennis with a group of friends in Palos Verdes, she took Lindsay along. Soon, the 6-year-old wanted lessons, got them, got good and also became a bit of a tennis brat.
Years ago, she recalled whining a lot one day and throwing her racket. Soon, her dad was marching her to the car, tossing the rackets in the trunk and saying, "Well, that's it."
A mom-daughter conspiracy rescued the rackets, but the point had been made.
Monday, Davenport recalled her early days on the tour.
"I was in the top 20, but still a teenager," she said. "I'd tell my parents the tournaments I was going to. They didn't know much about the sport, but they always said I had to go to school."
Pam Shriver, then a tour veteran, once took note of the normalcy of the Davenport family, something foreign to the tour, and said, "I have never met Lindsay Davenport's parents and I love them for it."
Davenport was asked about which of her three majors — '98 U.S. Open, '99 Wimbledon or '00 Australian — meant the most to her. Her answer further confirmed the confidence demons she faced.
"I think the U.S. Open was the most special," she said. "That's probably because it was the first one. For any player who has some insecurity, winning a major means so much. I just cried and cried."
Davenport also said, "I always loved playing tennis. I didn't love being in the limelight, dealing with the media. Retiring was nice because I could just go into the background."
Now she is a tennis broadcaster and says she loves going to the four Grand Slam tournaments because there is no pressure.
She worked her way through serious back and knee injuries in a career that went from 1993 through 2008. Along the way, she had many ups and downs.
She got her three major titles in seven tries in the finals. In all of the finals Davenport lost, she came up against the Williams sisters, losing three to Venus, including a 4-6, 7-6 (4), 9-7 thriller at Wimbledon in 2005 in which she served for the match in the second set and had match point in the third. Davenport also had a set and 4-0 lead in the fourth round of the French against eventual winner Iva Majoli.
On the flip side, she once beat Maria Sharapova at Indian Wells, 6-0, 6-0.
When Davenport won her second major, at Wimbledon, she said legendary tennis journalist Bud Collins told her she was now headed for the Hall of Fame.
"I had never thought about that until then," she said.
Collins had gone from doubter to major supporter. When Davenport became No. 1, Collins was quoted in The Times as saying, "I always thought she'd be a nice schoolgirl, happy to weigh 210 pounds and be No. 8."
Davenport shed the weight in the mid-2000s and won even more.
But her true colors never changed.
In one major, she battled through several long matches and would have been best advised to default out of the doubles. But her partner was Corina Morariu, who had battled life-threatening cancer to make a tennis comeback.
Davenport played both doubles and singles, lost in both finals and said, when asked about why she hadn't skipped the doubles, "I just couldn't do that to Corina."
Monday, when introduced on the conference call, her first gesture was politically correct. Also 100% Davenport.
She congratulated the other inductees: teacher Nick Bollettieri, wheelchair star Chantal Vandierendonck, tennis executive Jane Brown Grimes and Wimbledon commentator John Barrett.
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