Comeback Kid Davenport Wins Bali
Published September 16, 2007 12:00
BALI, Indonesia - One of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour's all-time greats capped a stunning return to action on Sunday afternoon, as Lindsay Davenport won the Commonwealth Bank Tennis Classic singles title in Bali. She beat Daniela Hantuchova in a three set final to complete an unlikely comeback title run.
Having not played a single event between last September and this August, let alone a singles event until just this week, Davenport came into Bali as some sort of unknown quantity. With a ranking of No.234, few thought her a threat at all, especially given the marquee names populating the draw. But she went through the two top guns, namely No.1 seed Jelena Jankovic and No.2 seed Hantuchova, to get to the title, which was the 52nd of her career.
"It's just overwhelming and exciting," Davenport said. "I certainly exceeded my expectations in how I'd play. I think a lot of it just had to do with being excited to be back out there and being fresh to play. But I would have never expected this to happen so soon, so I'm a little bit in shock."
Davenport's quarterfinal win over Jankovic was the biggest surprise in terms of ranking, as she regrouped after dropping the first four games of the match to beat the world No.3 for the fourth time in four career meetings, 64 26 62.
"Lindsay was playing really well, and was returning unbelievably; I just couldn't do anything," Jankovic stated. "The way she is serving, each opportunity you get you have to take it. She's playing great."
Davenport's serve got her out of trouble several times against Hantuchova in the final. Hantuchova had break point for 5-3 in the first set but Davenport erased it; after dropping her serve she also had 0-30 with Davenport serving up 5-4, but the American again got out of trouble. The Slovak managed to get the second set under her belt but the Davenport train got back on course, and was in complete control of the third set for a resonant 64 36 62 title victory.
"I finally got a lot of confidence, and was able to break her to go up 3-1 in the third," Davenport said. "She made a couple of errors and I hadn't broken her in so long - that gave me a lot of confidence and momentum. That relaxed me a bit more in my service games and I was able to make more first serves."
"I think I used the right tactics but it didn't work out," Hantuchova stated. "All the credit to her and how she was playing. She was serving great. Maybe I was trying for too much and that's where the errors started coming in. But against a player like that, you can't really afford to do that."
Davenport is now the lowest-ranked player to capture a title this season and the fourth-lowest in history. Her triumph is reminiscent of fellow greats Monica Seles and Serena Williams, who both made title runs immediately after returning from lengthy lay-offs (at 1995 Toronto and 2004 Miami, respectively).
"It's my first tournament back and I was unsure how I would respond physically. It's crazy. Maybe the pregnancy gave me some magical powers, I don't know. I was definitely getting tired there in the second set but was able to re-group and get a second or third wind for that third set. That was important. I don't know exactly where that comes from, but I definitely felt a little fresher in the third."
Hantuchova rebounded after an opening round loss at the US Open to reach her second final of 2007, having earned the title at Indian Wells. She was also a first round upset victim in Bali last year; this year she definitely impressed.
"I had a fantastic week, I really enjoyed it here," the 24-year-old declared. "I was just looking to get some matches in, but I didn't really expect to be in the final. This week gives me a lot of confidence."
Others making noise in Bali were rising stars Sorana Cirstea and Sara Errani, both semifinalists. Cirstea's run was of particular note as it included her first Top 20 win - in fact it was her first time even facing a player ranked inside the Top 30 - as she beat Patty Schnyder in the second round. China's Ji Chunmei and Sun Shengnan earned their first Tour titles of any kind in the doubles event.
But the week clearly belonged to Davenport, whose comeback form suggested it wouldn't be too long before she is again challenging for the biggest prizes.
"I hope to play Australia at the start of next year but besides that I don't know what to expect. But I'm hopeful to play as much as I can next year."