WIMBLEDON, England — Everything was predictable Monday in the Wimbledon women's round of 16, until Lindsay Davenport dropped a grenade on the way out of her news conference.
Davenport, not exactly Ms. Controversial, was asked about a simmering dispute among top U.S. female tennis players over Billie Jean King's current leadership of the United States Fed Cup team. The Fed Cup is the women's version of the Davis Cup, and King's team will play Italy in a quarterfinal in Washington, D.C., in mid-July. The team, announced recently, includes Venus Williams, Lisa Raymond, Meghann Shaughnessy and Monica Seles.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday July 22, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
Tennis -- Lindsay Davenport defeated Venus Williams in an event at Linz, Austria, in 2000. The site of the event was misidentified as Linz, Germany, in a Sports article about Wimbledon on July 1.
Missing will be top players Jennifer Capriati, Serena Williams and Davenport.
Davenport, who had just cruised past Japan's Shinobu Asagoe, 6-4, 6-1, was down to the last question when she was asked about a fairly public rift that has developed between King and Capriati. Capriati was ousted from the team last year for practicing with her father and coach, Stefano, rather than with her Fed Cup teammates.
"Billie runs a tight ship," Davenport said. "She's been tough on all of us. I told her I could play this next Fed Cup but couldn't be there until Tuesday night because my mom is having surgery. She told me to forget it.
"I think she did the same for Serena.
"After playing 10 years [in Fed Cup], I'm not too happy, either. Love her or hate her, she sticks by her guns and you kind of just go with it."
Davenport reiterated that her mother would be having surgery Monday of Fed Cup week, which would delay her arrival for lead-up practice rounds by only one day. Fed Cup matches begin Saturday. Davenport quoted King as telling her, "Don't bother coming."
Serena Williams, questioned later, said she too had prior commitments, one an acting job, that kept her off the team.
"I tried to change it. I can't change the dates," Serena said. "It's hard to get jobs in the acting field. I kind of have to go do it. It's only for a day. I'd be able to make it later in the week."
So, on a day in which both the Williams sisters advanced, along with Davenport and Capriati, as well as French Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne, her Belgian compatriot Kim Clijsters, Italian veteran Silvia Farina Elia and Russian newcomer Svetlana Kuznetsova, Davenport's little bombshell created the most buzz.
More than nine hours later, King, at home in Chicago, issued this response: "Lindsay has been a tremendous contributor to the U.S. Fed Cup team, participating 10 years consecutively, a dedication matched by a handful of players throughout the history of Fed Cup competition. Unfortunately, Lindsay advised us that she would not be available for the full week of competition. We look forward to having Lindsay play Fed Cup when she's available."
Davenport's victory, carved out in 47 minutes, set up an intriguing quarterfinal today. She will play Venus Williams, for the 22nd time in her career, and now trails in that matchup, 11-10, after having won eight of the first nine. The last time Davenport beat Venus was on a carpet surface in Linz, Germany, in 2000. Davenport has won three Grand Slam event titles, one each at the French, Australian and U.S. opens, and has lost two other chances in finals to Venus Williams, in the 2000 Wimbledon and U.S. Open.
Venus, who advanced Monday with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Russian Vera Zvonareva, avenging her upset in the French Open this year, has four Grand Slam titles, two here and two at the U.S. Open.
Almost as appealing a matchup will be Serena Williams' quarterfinal against Capriati. They have played 12 times and Serena has won eight of those, including the last seven. The last time Capriati won was in the quarterfinals here in 2001.
Serena advanced with a 50-minute rout of Russian Elena Dementieva, 6-2, 6-2, and Capriati took two minutes longer to dispatch another Russian, Anastasia Myskina, 6-2, 6-3.
Henin-Hardenne ended veteran Mary Pierce's mini-run, 6-3, 6-3. Admitting she'd come here out of shape while fighting her way back from injuries, Pierce still had managed to win three matches. Henin-Hardenne's victory earned her a spot opposite Kuznetsova, who ended the run of 16-year-old Maria Sharapova, 6-1, 2-6, 7-5.
The fourth quarterfinal today will match Clijsters and Farina Elia. Clijsters beat her doubles partner, Japan's Ai Sugiyama, 6-3, 6-2, and Farina Elia beat Argentina's Paola Suarez, 7-5, 7-6 (3).
This was a good day for the chalk players in London's betting parlors. All eight winners are seeded, led by Nos. 1-5, respectively, Serena Williams, Clijsters, Henin-Hardenne, Venus Williams and Davenport. Capriati is No. 8, Farina Elia No. 27 and Kuznetsova No. 33.
Times staff writer Lisa Dillman contributed to this report.