- 16 Sep 2020
A successful comeback for Davenport: What happened exactly on that day
On this day, September 16, 2007, Lindsay Davenport triumphed in Bali, her first tournament after she gave birth to her son Jagger, three months before. To claim the title, the former world No 1 eliminated world No 3, Jelena Jankovic, in the quarterfinal, before defeating world No 12, Daniela Hantuchova, in the final (6-4, 3-6, 6-2). Although she would continue her spectacular return to the game by winning three other tournaments, the American would never enter the top 10 again, and she would even retire at the end of 2008, pregnant with her second child.
The people involved
Lindsay Davenport was born in 1976. She turned professional in 1993, and during that season, she claimed her first title at the European Open, in Switzerland, she reached the fourth round at the US Open, and she beat Gabriela Sabatini, world No 6, in Philadelphia (6-4, 6-2), finishing the year as world No 20. In 1994, she entered the top 10 and finished runner-up at the Masters Cup (defeated by Sabatini, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4), but in 1995, disturbed by family issues, she gained weight and failed to remain a top 10 player. The following year, she worked hard on her physical condition, and claimed her biggest title at the time at the Olympic Games, in Atlanta, where she defeated Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in the final (7-6, 6-2). In 1997, she won no less than six tournaments, and reached the semi-final at the US Open, beaten by Martina Hingis (6-2, 6-4). She reached the pinnacle of the rankings in 1998, becoming world No 1 after a fantastic year during which she lost in the semi-finals at both the Australian Open and Roland-Garros before claiming her first Grand Slam title at the US Open, where she took her revenge against Hingis (6-3, 7-5).
In 1999 and 2000, she added two further major titles to her list of achievements, Wimbledon 1999 (defeating Steffi Graf in the final, 6-4, 7-5), and the 2000 Australian Open (where she beat Hingis once again, 6-1, 7-5). In the following years, Davenport remained a top 5 player, finishing world No 1 in 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2005, but she never won a fourth Grand Slam title, although she finished runner-up four times and was defeated six times in the semi-finals. In December 2006, her manager announced that she was pregnant, and the tennis world wondered if she would come back on the tour afterwards.
Daniela Hantuchova was born in 1983. She entered the top 100 in 2001, and her breakthrough season, which also proved to be the best in her entire career, was i n 2002. That year, she unexpectedly triumphed at Indian Wells as the world No 26, defeating world No 7 Justine Henin in the 16th round (6-3, 6-3) and world No 4 Martina Hingis in the final (6-3, 6-4). Later, she reached the quarterfinals at both Wimbledon and the US Open, each time defeated by Serena Williams in straight sets. In January 2003, she reached world No 5, her highest ranking ever, after reaching the quarterfinals at the Australian Open (lost to Venus Williams, 6-4, 6-3). In the following years, she didn’t manage to stay in the top 10, and her ranking even dropped to world No 62 at the end of 2004. Back in the top 20 in 2005 and 2006, she surprisingly never went past the fourth round in a Grand Slam tournament in these years. In 2007, she claimed her second career title, at Indian Wells again, beating Svetlana Kuznetsova in the final (6-3, 6-4). In September, she was the 12th best player in the world.
The Indonesian Open was established in 1994. Always held on hard courts after the US Open, it was held at different venues over the years, first in Surabaya, then Kuala Lumpur, before landing in Bali in 2001. The most famous former champions were Elena Dementieva (2003), Svetlana Kuznetsova (2004) and Lindsay Davenport (2005).
During Lindsay Davenport’s pregnancy, there had been much speculation about her potential return to the game. In July 2007, a month after the birth of her son, Jagger, she announced her comeback in September, only to participate in three tournaments until the end of the season, before a full-time return in 2008.
The first of the three tournaments on her schedule was Bali. In her opening match, the former world No 1 reassured her fans she was on form: her fierce groundstrokes were sharp enough to dismiss Eleni Daniliidou (world No 37), 6-2; 6-2. In the quarterfinal, she faced a much bigger challenge in Jelena Jankovic, No 3 in the world, who had reached the semi-final at Roland-Garros and the quarterfinal of the US Open. Although she dropped the second set, Davenport got through Jankovic, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2. After a semi-final easily won against Sara Errani, world No 90 (6-1, 6-3), she was to face Daniela Hantuchova in the final. The Slovakian, who had started the season with a great victory at the Indian Wells Open, had not been in great shape in the previous weeks. In Bali, she had not faced any top 100-player before the final.
With two players offering up contrasting game styles, the final turned out to be an interesting mind game. While Hantuchova was trying to move Davenport around to prevent her from dictating the game, the American tried to shorten the rallies as much as possible with her heavy hitting. After they split the first two sets, the 1998 US Open champion eventually overpowered her opponent in the last set, sealing her win, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.
“It’s just overwhelming and exciting,” said Davenport, according to reuters.com. “Obviously, playing my first tournament back was unsure physically how I would respond and I swear this is probably the first tournament I’ve played in four years where I didn’t have anything wrong with my lower extremities. I think a lot just had to do with being excited to be back out there and being fresh to play. But I never would have expected this to happen so I’m a little bit in shock.”
In the following weeks, Davenport would reach the semi-final at the China Open (defeated this time by Jankovic, 6-3, 7-5), and claim a second title at the Bell Open, in Canada (defeating Julia Vakulenko, 6-4, 6-1). She would begin 2008 with two more tournament wins, in Auckland and Memphis, but the rest of her season would not match this promising start, and she would not achieve any remarkable Grand Slam results. At the end of the year, she would announce her second pregnancy, and this time, she would not return to the game in singles. In total, the American claimed 55 titles, including three Grand Slams, and remained world No 1 for 98 weeks.
Hantuchova would reach the semi-finals at the 2008 Australian Open (lost to Ana Ivanovic, 0-6, 6-3, 6-4). She would then leave the top 20, and her next (and last) remarkable performance in a major tournament would be a quarterfinal at the 2013 US Open (lost to Victoria Azarenka, 6-2, 6-3). In January 2016, Hantuchova would leave the top 100, before retiring in 2017.