October 12, 1998: The day Lindsay Davenport became world No 1 for the first time

Every day, Tennis Majors looks back to the one of the biggest moments in tennis history. On this day in 1998, 22-year-old Lindsay Davenport capped her incredible season by rising to the top of the WTA rankings for the first time

Davenport Davenport

What exactly happened on that day?

On this day, October 12 in 1998, Lindsay Davenport, aged 22, became world No 1 for the first time in her career. Although the American had just lost to Sandrine Testud in the final of the Porsche Open in Filderstadt (7-5, 6-3), the top spot was the cherry on the cake after a fantastic season. Just a few weeks earlier, Davenport had claimed her first Grand Slam title at the US Open, where she defeated world No 1 Martina Hingis in the final (6-3, 7-5). 

The player involved: Lindsay Davenport

  • Lindsay Davenport: the hard-hitting American who won the 1998 US Open title

Lindsay Davenport was born in 1976 in Palos Verdes, California. She turned pro in 1993, and during that season, the American claimed her first title at the European Open in Switzerland, reached the fourth round at the US Open, and beat world No 6 Gabriela Sabatini in Philadelphia (6-4, 6-2), to finish the season as world No 20. The Argentine described Davenport’s game style with simple words: “She likes to hit the ball hard into the corner. Very, very hard.”

In 1994, Davenport entered the top 10 and finished runner-up at the WTA Championships (now known as WTA Finals, where she was defeated by Sabatini (6-3, 6-2, 6-4). However, in 1995, she struggled with some family issues and dropped out of the top 10. The following year, Davenport improved her physical conditioning, and claimed her biggest title at that point at the Atlanta Olympic Games, where she defeated Arantxa Sanchez in the final (7-6, 6-2). In 1997, she won six tournaments, including Indian Wells, and reached the semi-final at the US Open, but fell to Martina Hingis (6-2, 6-4). 

1998 was her best season on the tour. By the end of August, she claimed four titles, defeating the world No 1 Martina Hingis in the finals in Tokyo and Los Angeles. In Grand Slam tournaments, her results were outstanding, as she reached the semi-finals at both the Australian Open (defeated by Conchita Martinez, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3) and Roland-Garros (lost to Arantxa Sanchez, 6-3, 7-6). In New York, she took her career to the next level when she beat Hingis in the final (6-3, 7-5) to clinch her first Grand Slam title. She was now very close from taking over the No 1 spot from the Swiss Miss.

It happened on Monday, October 12, 1998. Hingis, the defending champion in Filderstadt, had lost in the quarter-finals to Dominique Monami (6-3, 6-7, 6-4). Meanwhile, Davenport made her way to the final, beating Sanchez in the semi-final (7-6, 6-4), and although she only finished runner-up to Sandrine Testud (7-5, 6-3), it was enough for her to climb to the top of the WTA rankings at the start of the following week.

“I never grew up thinking that I could be the best in the world, or one of the most successful players, and it managed to happen.” Davenport would reflect in 2020 in an interview for the ITF Youtube Channel.

What next? Davenport wins two more Grand Slam singles titles

Davenport would occupy the world No 1 spot for a total of 98 weeks. She would add two Grand Slam singles titles to her list of achievements, Wimbledon in 1999 (defeating Steffi Graf in the final, 6-4, 7-5), and the Australian Open in 2000 (beating Martina Hingis, 6-1, 7-5). She would then lose in the next four major finals she reached – all of them against the Williams sisters: three times against Venus (at Wimbledon in 2000 and 2005, and at the US Open in 2000), and once against Serena (at the 2005 Australian Open). Very consistent at the big events, Davenport finished four seasons as world No 1 (1998, 2001, 2004, 2005). 

The American announced she was pregnant with her first child in December 2006. She announced her return to the tour in July 2007 and won her 53rd career singles title in Quebec City later that year. In January 2009, she would announce her second pregnancy, which brought the curtain down on her singles career.

After her tennis career came to an end, Davenport worked as a coach (notably with Madison Keys) and a TV broadcaster for Tennis Channel. She was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 2014.

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