Another WTA Legend took to “Hall of Fame Live,” the International Tennis Hall of Fame's series on Facebook Live, as former World No.1 and three-time Grand Slam singles champion Lindsay Davenport discussed her stupendous career on Wednesday.
Davenport, who was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2014, took time on Wednesday to chat with commentator Blair Henley about many topics, from falling into tennis as a five-year-old, to her breakthrough Olympic run in 1996, to Grand Slam glory starting in 1998.
As the youngest of three daughters in a heralded volleyball family, Davenport tried out a number of different sports as a kindergartner, suffering through a handful of mishaps before winding her way into the activity which would change her life.
"My mom put me in swimming, and my hair turned green, and I guess as a four-year-old, that was completely devastating to me," the American star smiled. "Then they put me in soccer, and of course, my first game, I got kicked in the shins and I had to get stitches, and I still have a scar from that. So I never wanted to play soccer again!"
But not much after that, Davenport started to play tennis, "and I never really looked back. I just always wanted to play. Most of my friends became friends from the club, and it just became kind of a way of life. It was by chance that I happened to find that, and find something that I wanted to do so badly."
"I just couldn't get the racquet out of my hands," Davenport continued. "Fortunately, that put me on a path that I never got off of."
After being a junior stalwart, Davenport quickly established herself as a dangerous WTA competitor in her late teens. A powerful week occurred at the 1996 Olympics at Atlanta, Georgia, in her home country.
"It was really hard to make the team that year, only three singles players went," said Davenport. "From the U.S., we had four or five girls in the Top 10. It came down to the very last week before the rankings. We had Monica Seles, Chanda Rubin was having a career year, Mary Joe Fernandez, myself, it was pretty crazy.
"I got in as the third player literally in the last week, right before the acceptances, and that was the biggest deal in my family. My father was an Olympian in volleyball. They couldn’t believe that I was going to represent the U.S. at the Olympics, in Atlanta of all places. So I already felt like I hit the jackpot by just being there."
The jackpot, however, had only just begun. As the No.9 seed, Davenport beat four Top 8 seeds in the final four rounds, clinching the laurels on home soil with a victory over Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in the gold-medal match.
"We get there, and I'm around Billie Jean [King] and the team, and we're all so excited," Davenport continued. "Everyone's working towards goals, and you have this amazing moment with your compatriots, and you really feel a lot of pride for your country. Things fell together, fell in line, and [I was] able to play my best tennis."
After making her first Grand Slam semifinal at the 1997 US Open, an event that she considers a turning point in her major record, Davenport returned to New York the next year and reached a pinnacle.
"[The US Open] was the first one I played as a junior at 14, I won the juniors there, all of it was about New York," said Davenport. "The one that I grew up watching, the one I grew up really wanting to do well at."
"I played [Martina] Hingis in the final, I had a crowd that was behind me, and I’m going to say it was actually one of the few matches I ever played where my whole family was there," Davenport stated.
"And I beat Venus [Williams] in the semis, and that year, the schedule was back-to-back days, I didn’t have a day off," Davenport continued. "Unbeknownst to me, my sisters and their husbands, they flew in on the red eye."
Davenport did not know the whole brood was going to be there for the biggest Grand Slam match of her career up to that point. "[This was] before phones and texting and all that!" she explained. "I walked out on the court and I was like, 'Oh my God, my sisters are there!' I had no clue."
Davenport defeated Hingis in straight sets to win her first major title at the 1998 US Open, on her mother's birthday. "We went out that night, everybody, which never happens," said Davenport. "I couldn't do anything because I had the doubles final the next day, so I was the first one to leave my champion's party!"
Davenport now works as a commentator for Tennis Channel, and has served as the coach of current elite player Madison Keys, so the former top-ranked player is still heavily involved in the comings and goings of the sport.
Among the number of players who catch her eye, Davenport is "in awe of" rising star Coco Gauff. "[Gauff] is not shy about saying what her goals are, and what she believes she can accomplish," said the former phenom. "I couldn’t even put sentences together at 15!"
And now, as the tour aims for a return to activity in August, Davenport is looking ahead to the upcoming calendar, including the US Open -- where she is thrilled that Serena Williams is planning to go for a 24th Grand Slam title.
"I thought that was really exciting news," said Davenport. "To hear our greatest player of all time say ‘Yeah, I’m gonna be there, I’m going to try and embrace it.’"
"I thought that was excellent," Davenport added. "I really applaud Serena for being part of the announcement and throwing her support behind it."
The scheduled end of the tennis hiatus will lead to just another part of Davenport's lifetime involvement in the sport. "When I really sit back and think about everything, tennis has given me my whole life," said the WTA Legend. "My career now, it led me to my husband, it obviously has given me my family. It gave me opportunities I never knew existed."
"It gave me purpose," Davenport continued. "I’m sure it kept me out of trouble -- you know, I was too busy practicing or doing anything else to want to go and do anything bad in my teenage years! It’s given me almost all of my relationships and friendships throughout my life. I always feel like I was incredibly blessed to be introduced to that sport when I was five or six years old."
View the full interview below!