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She's not flashy, but Davenport gets the job done

By Charles Bricker
CBS SportsLine Tennis Writer
Aug. 4, 1998

There's a white fabric cap with a short visor -- the kind serious cyclists wear -- tilted back on her head, matting down her short, deliberately unglamorous haircut.

The sweatshirt is simple gray, just like the shorts. A silver necklace, so thin it's nearly imperceptible, clings to her neck.

Here sits Lindsay Davenport, who might be the most invisible No. 2 player in the history of women's tennis.

The dilettantes come to a Corel WTA event looking for Martina, Anna, Venus and Serena. Anything teen-aged and with a smart mouth.

And then there's the 6-foot-2 Davenport, who defeated Venus Williams in the final of the Bank of the West Classic on Sunday -- her second title of the year and 15th of her career.

The victory pushed her record to 38-10 on the season.

Davenport probably has given more of her $4 million in career earnings to the IRS than she has spent on herself.

"I put most of my money in the bank,'' she says. "I know if I really want something I can buy it. But I don't really want that much.''

She bought a house in Newport Beach, Calif., but not right on the beach, where the big money can be found. She has one of those macho sporting bicycles, "but not one of the big ones,'' she quickly lets you know.

And there was that wild extravagance, the Rottweiler puppy she named Zoltan. "Monica (Seles) used to hit with a guy named Zoltan, or Zolie. I thought that was the cutest name.''

She doesn't have an agent from IMG carrying her bags or clearing a path through reporters so she won't be annoyed with questions about which Red Wings hockey player she's dating.

In fact, she admits, "There is no romance right now.''

You spend no more than five minutes with this woman, who recently turned 22, and you want to get down on your knees and thank the tennis gods for Lindsay Davenport.

This is year six in Davenport's professional career. She was one of the USTA kids who made good. When she turned 18, she left the USTA nest and linked up more or less permanently with Robert Van't Hof, the former Southern Cal college star who got by a few years on the pro tour with a lot of savvy.

He turned out to be as much a friend and big brother as a coach, helping this once puffy, uncertain kid through two years of her parents' disintegrating marriage.

If Lindsay had blond hair and pink cheeks, you might know about the divorce that wracked her life two years ago.

"It was a terrible two years and it was very hard to play. Once I got through it, I was stronger. But going through it was hard.''

When she's home, she lives with her mother, Ann. Her relationship with her father, Wink, who was on the 1968 U.S. volleyball team, is merely OK.

She's not svelte, but she's in better physical condition than she ever dreamed she could be. She's not fast, but she's faster than she once was. She doesn't have Martina Hingis' gift for the game, but she's smart. She finds ways to compensate for what she doesn't have.

With her win over Williams, her eyes are fixed on a first Grand Slam title. The U.S. Open begins Aug. 31. This victory -- at the beginning of the U.S. hardcourt season -- is an excellent start.