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Injury Means Delicate Balance for Davenport

June 17, 2003|LISA DILLMAN

There are occupational hazards in sports. The phrases "tennis elbow," "surgery to repair the ACL" or "torn rotator cuff" generate a chill of recognition in anyone involved, be it a recreational or professional player.

An inflamed nerve between the toes generates no such shudder. So Lindsay Davenport, who has a very sore toe on her left foot, laughed when she looked up information about her most recent affliction on the Internet.

"It's a common injury in women who wear high heels," she said. "It's very weird, but very painful."

Fashion models sashaying down the runway get this sort of thing, not tennis players running, or in some cases, sashaying, around the court. Davenport had to shake her head about the injury that put her out of the French Open in the second set against Conchita Martinez in the fourth round, saying, "It's just a very bizarre chapter in my life, [but] they're very confident it will be fine through November."

Surgery will be required eventually, but Davenport is planning on a serious effort at Wimbledon and is playing a grass-court tuneup event this week at Eastbourne, England. She practiced on grass at La Costa last week and spoke to reporters about her preparations and the Acura Classic there in July.

Off the court, she consulted with doctors at the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic, received a shot of cortisone and is wearing orthotics in hard-court shoes with a tread for grass courts. Rest, she said, does not ease the pain, and it can flare up with relative unpredictability.

"It can be fine for an hour or 30 minutes [but] whatever motion makes it become inflamed, it doesn't go away," she said. "It's a very sharp pain...."

Davenport is trying to make it through at least the U.S. Open and the season-ending WTA Championships at Staples Center before having the surgery.

Despite the injury, she remained upbeat, talking about her wedding in April and her partnership with her new coach, Adam Peterson. Davenport, who will be seeded fifth at Wimbledon, is still trying to return to her level of 2001, before her career-threatening knee injury. That resulted in a nine-month absence from the tour, and many in the top 10 had improved dramatically when she returned in July 2002.

"A lot of times it is confidence," Davenport said. "But a lot of the girls, when I was out, got a lot better than before. As a result, they are much better players [than] before, when I was playing them and beating them a little easier. So you do have to give the opponent credit. There's no question you lose a lot when you're out a lot. You take your hits when you first come back. Now it's been about a year. I have to get going forward, not keep looking back."

Double Vision

Judging from immediate reaction, the French Open doubles victory by twins Bob and Mike Bryan was one of the more popular results on the tour. As of last Wednesday, they had received 250 e-mails and there was a congratulatory banner displayed at their high school.

In a particularly sweet moment, they ran into one of their boyhood idols last week at the Queen's Club tour stop in London.

"Everyone we saw congratulated us," Bob Bryan said. "When Andre Agassi comes up to you and gives you a hug and says, 'Congratulations! How does it feel?' You know you've done something special.

"I guess everyone in Queen's watched it on TV, in the locker room. I guess there were a hundred people down there watching it. I mean, it's fun going into a tournament, everybody shakes your hand and says, 'Great job!' "

Said Mike Bryan: "Any chance we get, we're trying to crank out 10 [e-mails] at a time, in between practice sessions, trying to write back everyone a personal response. It's awesome! Every day there's something new that just makes you smile."

Wimbledon Update

Gentlemen, close your shutters.

A legion of photographers, and tabloid readers, suffered a devastating hit Monday when Russian diva, also known as tennis player Anna Kournikova, withdrew from Wimbledon, which starts next week.

The move came as no surprise, certainly, considering that Kournikova, a Wimbledon semifinalist in 1997, already had pulled out of two British grass-court tournaments because of a chronic back injury. She has been struggling in 2003, losing in the first rounds of lower-level events, and she has won only one match in her last five Grand Slam events.

The tournament lost more star power when former champion Goran Ivanisevic of Croatia sent word he would be unable to compete, and Tommy Haas of Germany withdrew because he needed more time to recover from a shoulder injury.

Already sitting out is seven-time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras, who has all but retired.

It seems as though Venus and Serena Williams are keeping their options open about playing doubles at Wimbledon. They were given a wild card into the doubles -- Venus has no doubles ranking -- but it's hardly a secret Venus was not tip-top physically during the French Open. She could decide to stick to singles, but no decision is expected immediately.

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