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CHAMPION’S ALLEY: LINDSAY DAVENPORT

Champion’s Alley: A series looking at the former champions at the WTA Finals. This week, Mark Hodgkinson focuses on 1999 champion Lindsay Davenport

The closest that Lindsay Davenport ever came to perfection on a tennis court was the occasion she defeated Martina Hingis at New York City's Madison Square Garden to win the 1999 season-ending championships.

It was one of those days when everything that Davenport tried - and she was trying plenty, having decided that she would play an ultra-aggressive match - came off. The final had reverted to being a best-of-three-set match, after years of being contested over five sets, and you can imagine that Hingis wouldn't have been that unhappy that this was played over a shorter format; the outcome was never in doubt and the New York Times would describe it as a "public flogging" for the Swiss. Hingis thought it was the best performance that Davenport had ever given against her, and Davenport went even further than that; this was possibly the greatest tennis match she had ever played in her career. For Davenport, if not for Hingis, "this was just an awesome way to end the year".

The year before, these same players had also contested the final; with Hingis winning in four sets. This match was very different. "When I woke up today, I really just wanted to go for my shots, to go for my winners, and to be the one who was dictating, and I was able to do it all," Davenport said after her 6-4, 6-2 victory. "I mean to beat Martina by that scoreline is pretty great, and it's pretty hard to do it any worse than that. I would definitely say that it was one of the best matches of my career, I'd like to think ever. The whole match, I just played the way I wanted to play, aggressive and going for it. My serve was great, everything was great."

In all, Davenport reached four finals. In 1994, she was the runner-up to Gabriela Sabatini, and in 2001, she couldn't play the title-match against Serena Williams because of a knee injury she had sustained when beating Kim Clijsters in the semi-finals. So she didn't add to that triumph in 1999. But she will always have memories of that day when she played to the best of her abilities. Who can ask for any more than that?

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Mark Hodgkinson is the author of 'Game, Set and Match: Secret Weapons of the World's Top Tennis Players' (Bloomsbury, May 2015).

 

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