Sprem continues unforeseen run

Updated: June 29, 2004, 12:28 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

WIMBLEDON, England -- With the focus in women's tennis on fashion, brash personalities and photogenic teenagers, little room is left for Lindsay Davenport.

The only way the game's girl-next-door will make many headlines at Wimbledon is by winning the tournament. And she just might.

With attention elsewhere Monday, as usual, Davenport slipped quietly into the quarterfinals for the sixth time by beating Vera Zvonareva 6-4, 6-4. Ranked No. 5, Davenport is the only top-10 player left in her half of the draw, and she'll face unseeded Karolina Sprem on Tuesday.

Other obstacles looming include No. 13-seeded Maria Sharapova and two-time defending champion Serena Williams, a potential opponent in the final Saturday.

Davenport declined to handicap her chances of winning a fourth Grand Slam title this week.

"I've kind of learned," she said. "Some tournaments I thought for sure I'm going to win, and I haven't. Others I thought there's no way, and I've come through to win. So I just kind of don't worry about that."

She won the U.S. Open in 1998, Wimbledon in 1999 and the Australian Open in 2000, to go with a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics. Those are big stages, and yet likable Lindsay can walk into her favorite coffee shop in Wimbledon village and draw scant notice.

At age 28, she finds it easier than ever to stay out of the spotlight.

"The media focus a lot on the teenage players now and how times have changed with how they dress on the court and stuff," she said. "They get a lot of attention for a lot of different reasons. A lot of times the stories go away from tennis now more than they used to."

The buzz is building for the three teens still in the draw: Sprem, who is 19; Sharapova, 17; and Tatiana Golovin, 16.

Sprem advanced to the quarterfinals by beating No. 21 Magdalena Maleeva 6-4, 6-4. The young Croat has been unshaken by the furor that followed the bizarre finish to her second-round upset of two-time champion Venus Williams, when the chair umpire lost track of the score.

Sharapova, already represented by the modeling agency affiliated with Tyra Banks, reached the quarterfinals for the second Grand Slam in a row by defeating Amy Frazier 6-4, 7-5. Sharapova's opponent Tuesday will be No. 11 Ai Sugiyama, who eliminated Tamarine Tanasugarn 6-3, 7-5.

Golovin will play Serena Williams in the fourth round Tuesday after beating Emmanuelle Gagliardi 6-3, 2-6, 6-3. The match was completed Monday after being suspended because of rain at 3-all in the final set Sunday.

In the completion of another suspended match, No. 14 Silvia Farina Elia beat Virginia Ruano Pascual 2-6, 6-4, 7-5. Farina Elia, at 32 the oldest remaining player, will face No. 4 Amelie Mauresmo on Tuesday for a quarterfinal berth.

Golovin was born in Russia, moved to Paris as an infant and trained for seven years in Florida. She reached the fourth round at this year's Australian Open as a wild card, won the mixed doubles title at the French Open with fellow French teenager Richard Gasquet and has already climbed to No. 54 in the rankings.

At Wimbledon she's wearing a skimpy two-piece outfit that makes Serena Williams' audacious ensembles look modest, and their matchup is sure to attract the attention of London tabloid photographers.

"Playing Serena is going to be amazing," Golovin said. "I'm just really excited."

Davenport remembers what it's like to be the youngster playing a champion. She was just 17 when she reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the 1994 Australian Open and faced Steffi Graf.

"I was excited to go out there," Davenport said. "But at the same time I thought, 'Oh, I don't want to be embarrassed and get killed.' "

Graf won that match and went on to win the tournament. Sometimes older is better, and Davenport is old enough to know it.