Davenport faces confident Molik

Updated: January 25, 2005, 9:36 AM ET
By Cynthia Faulkner | ESPN.com

Until recently, Lindsay Davenport's three major trophies weren't even out. Now her Wimbledon, U.S. Open and Australian Open trophies sit in a place of honor in the world No. 1 player's home. What changed? "Someone" suggested she put them on display because they're something to be proud of, Davenport explained.

The line that convinced her: "If we ever have kids, we're going to show it to them, so you might as well put them up now."

Davenport exudes confidence but not cockiness. She's blunt but rarely at the center of controversy. In 1998, when she first became the No. 1 player she explained it by saying "I'm just an ordinary girl playing tennis and being successful, pretty quiet and modest. That's a boring story."

When reminded of the quote last week, Davenport, 28, said not much has changed.

"I think those adjectives that you used describe me accurately," she said.

"I could never have imagined that I would win one, let alone three," said Davenport, who plays Alicia Molik in the quarterfinals of the Aussie Open today (ESPN2, 10 p.m. ET). "They're a huge source of joy in my life in terms of my career. But that's certainly not how I measure my everyday life, and it's certainly not what I'm showing dinner guests like, 'Oh, look at that.'

"I know it, the people who are close to me know it, and that's good enough for me."

Davenport married Jon Leach in April 2003 and by Wimbledon 2004, she was talking like three would be good enough. Thoughts of staying in one place and starting a family beckoned. Instead, as much to her surprise as anyone, she went on a hot streak over the summer and finished the year as the No. 1 player even without reaching a major final.

"Last year, after all these years, taught me you can't really plan for anything," Davenport said. "I wouldn't have planned to finish the year 1, and then looking back I would never have told you I would be 1 without making a Grand Slam final."

A semifinalist six times in the past four years, Davenport's last final appearance was the 2000 U.S. Open and her last title came at the Australian Open earlier that year.

"Overall, it was pretty disappointing when the year ended to kind of have that void, that I wasn't able to come through at Wimbledon or the US Open," she said "But that's what motivates you to come back and keep trying, and that's pretty much why I'm still here, I guess."

Molik also turned out to be something of a surprise last season. She'd never been past the fourth round at a major tournament. She finished 2003 ranked No. 35. After defeating Venus Williams in straight sets, Molik comes into the quarterfinal with a solid dose of confidence.

"I haven't beaten Lindsay before, like I hadn't beaten Venus today," Molik said after her 7-5, 7-6 (3) fourth-round victory.

"I guess my game's gone through a complete overhaul," Molik said. "I'm a much better player, a much more confident player. And I feel like I can do a lot more on the tennis court."

"She had a great year last year," Davenport said, "and I think she's going to get better and better.

"It's going to be a good matchup," Molik said. "Lindsay plays such a big game. She's a clean hitter of the ball. She's very good at moving the ball around and has a particularly good serve."

When the WTA Tour rankings are released on Monday, Molik will become the first Australian-born woman to break into the top 10 since Wendy Turnbull did 20 years ago. And did we mention that they'll be playing on Australia Day, a national holiday?

"Results and good tennis come from hard work and dedication and believing in yourself and I guess persistence, perseverance," Molik said

"She has a lot of pressure here, trying to become this kind of leader for Australian women's tennis," Davenport said. "I think she handles everything remarkably well off the court."

"When you walk out from the change of ends and hear everyone screaming and yelling, you know, you hear your name, it gives you a lot of inspiration," Molik said.

"I think she has a great serve, and she has a big forehand," Davenport said. "I think sometimes you can attack her backhand, but it's gotten a lot better in the last few months. She likes to come in."

Molik, who turns 24 tomorrow, has seen her peers find success while she's taken a longer route.

"When one gets through you always think to yourself, 'Well, why not me?'"

Why not?

Davenport probably thinks the same thing. And there's sure to be space for at least one more trophy at home.

Cynthia Faulkner is the tennis editor for ESPN.com.

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