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Van Roost Aiming for a Higher Perch

October 19, 1998|LISA DILLMAN

Every generation--young, old and middle--seems to be making some sort of statement on the women's tour in 1998.

Lindsay Davenport, 22, stepped up and seized the moment for the middle generation this fall, winning the U.S. Open and becoming No. 1 last week. In Filderstadt, Germany, she received an assist from another middle-generation contemporary--25-year-old Dominique Van Roost of Belgium, whose three-set victory over then No. 1-ranked Martina Hingis ensured a change at the top.

Van Roost giggled at her role, saying: "She [Hingis] was still No. 1 but because of me . . . "

The modest Van Roost has turned in a series of startling results in the last two weeks--losing only three games to Venus Williams at Filderstadt, beating Hingis and easily defeating Anna Kournikova at Zurich.

"Playing all these young players, these newcomers, very famous [players]," she said. "It was very good results. I feel younger again."

Her strong October helped Van Roost become the first player from Belgium--male or female--to reach the top 10. Van Roost, who is No. 9, reached the semifinals and quarterfinals in her last two events despite being bothered by a pulled stomach muscle. The injury caused her to withdraw from this week's event in Moscow. (Davenport also pulled out of the Moscow tournament, because of a sore arm.)

She qualified for the season-ending Chase Championships in New York for the first time in her career, and is working on establishing new goals.

"Of course I have a lot confidence now. When you beat the No. 1, you can beat anybody," Van Roost said. "You have to be very careful. It's not good to be too confident because then it starts to be dangerous."

For her, it has been easier to move up steadily and quietly, unlike the highly hyped teens.

"All these famous young players have a lot of pressure on their shoulders because they have a lot of things to prove," she said. "Especially when they hadn't even started on the tour and people talk about you as though you are going to be the next No. 1. It's not easy at all when you get into that world.

"I prefer the way I started on the tour. Now I'm improving every year. I don't have much pressure at all and it makes my life easier."

And she wanted to amend her statement about feeling younger again.

"I'm not old. When I go back home, I'm not old," said Van Roost, who is coached by her husband Bart. "In the tennis world, I'm between the two. I'm more going toward the old generation. But it's not old. I don't feel old in my head."

ALL MAC, ALL THE TIME

If anything, trying to keep up with the wandering, meandering John McEnroe on the topic of U.S. Davis Cup captaincy is highly entertaining . . . kind of like trying to read tea leaves or decipher a Goran Ivanisevic news conference without the requisite decoder ring.

Does he or doesn't he?

It depends on what day the multimedia Mac is talking or writing.

Sunday, Oct. 11, in England's Daily Telegraph:

"My appetite for the responsibility is there and it was further whetted when I saw the team [Tom] Gullikson had chosen for the semi against Italy, a country which has no star players these days," McEnroe wrote. "What happens? We lose 3-0 [actually 4-1] in a half-empty stadium. Where's the pride in that?

"We need to put the competition back on its pedestal. The captaincy of a Davis Cup shouldn't just be about sitting on a chair. It's about re-energizing the sport, and we certainly need some of that here in the States. We're playing the old enemy next year, for the first time since my Davis Cup singles debut in the 1978 final.

"[Tim] Henman and [Greg] Rusedski will be very tough. They'll be unbeatable if we put out a second-rate team [in 1999]. And I wonder if the sport will recover here if we're relegated from the World Group. It's as big as that."

Thursday, Oct. 15, at a senior event in Sydney:

"Tennis has become a joke in the Davis Cup and the Olympics," he said. "It just doesn't seem the players ultimately care about playing. . . . I guess I'd have to get on my knees and beg [Pete Sampras] to play, which is one reason I don't want to take the job. I can't imagine bending that low."

So, is that the last word from Mac? Doubt it.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE

* "I know what people have been saying--that I hate Goran and Goran hates me. But I went into the match not thinking about it. I shut it out. I knew if I thought about it, it would have affected my game," said 33-year-old Mark Woodforde, who beat Ivanisevic last week in the second round at Singapore. Ivanisevic had said at the U.S. Open that it was time for Woodforde to retire, calling him "pretty old."

* "He was great in teaching me it's great to make a lot of unforced errors. You read it's bad when you make 50 unforced errors. He thinks that's the way I should play and the way I should lose, if I lose," Davenport, on what her coach Robert Van't Hof has taught her.

* "It's hard, you become No. 1 and then you are No. 2, but I think Martina [Hingis] will come back to the top again, to the top of her game. There's just a lot of different players right now who can play well and they are all not very consistent. It's kind of strange. It is not like one person will rule for five years like Steffi [Graf] or [Martina] Navratilova," Kournikova, on the shifting scene at the top of women's tennis.

DROP SHOTS

Jonas Bjorkman of Sweden, who is ranked No. 12, has signed a four-week contract with Coach Larry Stefanki, according to a Swedish newspaper. If the arrangement works out, they will sign a one-year deal. . . . Guy Forget is going to succeed Yannick Noah as captain of the French Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams. Forget, who reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals three times in his playing career, helped lead France to Davis Cup victories in 1991 and 1996. In the first round of the 1999 Davis Cup, France will host the Netherlands.

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