Davenport's game exuding pristine shot-making thus far
What do you get when you take a 31-year old, oft-injured mom and stick her in the hot and humid temperatures she despises? A vintage-looking Lindsay Davenport, who has headlined Week 1 in Miami.
KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- There's a mischievous moon over Miami. The Sony Ericsson Open isn't even half over yet and stars are being eclipsed every day.Yes, it's probably no coincidence that Indian Wells champions Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic became collateral damage in the week after that tournament. In the endurance test presented by these back-to-back big events, no crown or tiara is secure for long. Lindsay Davenport led the latest coup d'etat on Sunday with a stunningly one-sided 6-4, 6-2 third-round dismissal of world No. 2 Ivanovic. Davenport, now ranked 33rd, has won four lower-tier tournaments since her return from maternity leave, but was only 1-3 against top-5 players coming into Miami. Recently, she took stock and decided to try to bang on the glass ceiling in the same hey-why-not spirit with which she's approached her entire comeback. "I reached a point a month or two ago where I'm like, OK, I'm ready to play the bigger tournaments, play the top girls on a more consistent basis," she said. "I felt more confident in my game, and where I was at. "So today's obviously the biggest win I've had since coming back. It's quite rewarding." South Florida has never been Davenport's favorite venue. In fact, she hadn't been here since 2003 for various reasons, including injury, pregnancy and general aversion to the windy, humid conditions. But this season, "I've tried to go outside my little sheltered box of tournaments that I play and try to go to some new cities,'' she said, noting that she might play on -- gasp! -- red clay in Rome this spring simply because her husband would like to see the Eternal City. She's also planning to play an exhibition in Warsaw. Davenport, who can enter any tournament she chooses thanks to something called a gold emeritus exemption granted by the WTA, is looking like the perpetual top-10 fixture she used to be. Her life changes have liberated her. She's playing with more abandon even as she juggles more responsibilities. We thought Davenport would give Ivanovic a game. But we weren't prepared to see her in such vintage form, especially after she retired from her quarterfinal match at Indian Wells with a twinged back. The setback was an unwelcome reminder of Davenport's withdrawal from the same tournament two years ago due to a bulging disc, the injury that made the late stages of Act I of her career so painful. Davenport's coach, Adam Peterson, said she had a few anxious moments before an MRI came back negative. Davenport put pressure on Ivanovic's serve from the start, nicking the lines with her laser-like groundstrokes. Ivanovic was flat and couldn't adjust. As she languished at the baseline, Davenport rushed the net, converting on a near-perfect 13 of 14 approaches and landing a few highlight-reel backhand volley winners that are the hallmark of her excellent doubles game. "She played like a top-10 player easily today," Ivanovic said. However, Davenport could not sustain that level against 13th seed Dinara Safina of Russia. She tumbled 6-3, 6-4 on a windy outer court and said, "[Safina] did everything better than I did. She served very well. She got a lot of balls back and played very smart."
Davenport she wasn't feeling any competitive hangover from the Ivanovic win. She said, "every day you start over no matter who you play."
"For lack of better words, I've not made a fool of myself," Davenport said -- in classic self-deprecating style -- of her renaissance.Other observations in the middle of the lunar cycle: Tall tale: If anyone had an excuse for a letdown, it was Kevin Anderson, who bounced Djokovic in the second round. Instead, the 6-foot-7-inch University of Illinois product from South Africa went toe-to-toe with Russia's feisty Igor Andreev on Sunday and fell in three sets. Kudos.
Bonnie D. Ford covers tennis and Olympic sports for ESPN.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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SONY ERICSSON OPEN
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• Tennis.com: Nadal or Davydenko
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• Ford: Men's road to the Miami Final Four
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Blogs• Bodo: Champion's fatigue setting in
• Bodo: Djokovic, Ivanovic can't double up
• Indian Wells-Miami double onerous task
• Tennis.com: Serena best part-time player ever
Results• Sunday: Davydenko sweeps away Nadal
• Saturday: Serena holds off Jankovic
• Friday: Nadal gets by Berdych
• Thursday: Roddick shocks Federer
• Wednesday: Nadal rolls by Blake
• Tuesday: Serena routs Henin; Blake, Federer win
• Monday: Serena Williams eases into quarters
• Sunday: Davenport topples Ivanovic
• Youzhny bashes own skull