YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Top-Seeded Davenport Clocks In, Just as Usual

Despite thoughts that last year might be her last at Wimbledon, she's back on Day 1, starting with a 41-minute, straight-set victory.

June 21, 2005|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

WIMBLEDON, England — So, guess who walked onto Centre Court on a sun-splashed Monday at Wimbledon?

Top-seeded Lindsay Davenport, who doubted she'd return here, had the honor of playing the first women's match on Centre Court this year, just after two-time defending champion Roger Federer of Switzerland, who broke in the main show court by sweeping Paul-Henri Mathieu of France, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.

Davenport's 6-0, 6-2 win over Alina Jidkova of Russia took only 41 minutes, moving along as quickly as the morning thunderstorms that swept through at a pace that allowed play to start on schedule.

Davenport, who won here in 1999, recalled last year "crying a little bit when I left thinking, 'Oh I might not be playing here again.' " "In that regard," she added, "it's pretty fun to be back here and be playing well, being seeded No. 1 and all of that. It's pretty special.

"I feel kind of like on a little bit of borrowed time because I didn't think it would necessarily happen again."

Davenport, who has won two titles in 2005, arrived last week, strolling through the gates of the All England Club with Corina Morariu, her close friend and doubles partner.

"We were just kind of joking around. I'm like, 'I'm back,' " Davenport said. "She was kind of laughing too."

After last year's Wimbledon, Davenport won three consecutive hard-court events in California and regained the No. 1 ranking in the fall. In the two Slam events of 2005, she reached the Australian Open final and the quarterfinals at the French Open.

"I've had a wonderful ride the last 12 months since leaving here. Never would have expected exactly how things turned out," she said.

In the second round, Davenport will play U.S. qualifier Jamea Jackson. American women joining Davenport and Jackson in the second round are Meghann Shaughnessy, Mashona Washington, Shenay Perry and Marissa Irvin. Irvin, from Santa Monica, gained her first Wimbledon match victory in her sixth trip to the All England Club, defeating qualifier Saori Obata of Japan, 7-6 (4), 6-3.

For the U.S. men, it was a mixed opening day -- though far stronger than Day 1 at the French Open because there were some winners.

Justin Gimelstob, who had pulled out of his last qualifying match because of an injured back, got it together enough to defeat qualifier Adrian Garcia of Chile, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (5), in the first round. Wild card James Blake lost in four sets to Jan Hernych of the Czech Republic, and qualifier Jeff Morrison went out in five sets against Swedish veteran Jonas Bjorkman.

Taylor Dent got through an irregular showing, winning in five sets against the oldest man in the singles draw, 34-year-old Belgian qualifier Dick Norman. Dent, of Huntington Beach, defeated the tricky left-hander, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-7 (7), 6-1, in 3 hours 22 minutes.

Norman moves surprisingly well despite being 6 feet 8, showing creative touch at the net. He hit 25 aces to Dent's 23. Such is the nature of grass-court tennis that Dent was pushed to five sets and lost his serve only once.

"Which is awesome for me," Dent said. "That's great. I feel like when I win matches I'm either not getting broken or I'm getting broken once a match. And you'll find that true with all the best players in the world."

Dent said he did not enjoy practicing his serve. "Hate it," he said. "I absolutely hate it. It is the most boring part of tennis."

His opponent in the second round will be another Orange County player, Kevin Kim, who, oddly, has not played on the main ATP Tour or even in juniors. Kim, from Newport Coast, won his first main-draw match at Wimbledon, defeating Alex Bogdanovic of Britain, 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.

"The quality of it was a little up and down," Kim said. "The second, third and fourth sets were a little prettier. There were a little bit of nerves. I don't particularly enjoy grass."

Dent and Kim share something else besides a Southern California upbringing. For now, Dent is without a coach, having gone through a long laundry list of mentors, the most recent being Francisco Montana.

"Even when Francisco was around, I was kind of doing my own thing," Dent said. "And I felt awkward kind of taking his time when he could be helping somebody else, because I was just doing my own thing and he was just helping me out here and there."

That somebody else is now Dent's next opponent, Kim.

So, has the new coach provided any special insight for Kim into Dent?

"Not yet. He said he'll talk to me later," Kim said, smiling. "I'm sure he'll give me the scoop."

Los Angeles Times Articles