Davenport rides the pain as Dokic feeds on anger

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The Independent Online

Plastered on the knee and bandaged around the thigh, Lindsay Davenport hardly looks the physical specimen destined to win Wimbledon. But the victories keep coming for the third seed, and in straight sets, too. Yesterday she outhit, outmanoeuvred and eventually demoralised Patty Schnyder of Switzerland 6-2 6-3 in six minutes under the hour.

All of which sounds impressive. However, the woman who won Wimbledon in 1999 and was runner-up last year is not totally happy with her form since coming back from a three month lay-off because of her right knee and immediately winning Eastbourne. "I don't feel like the months off have hampered me too bad," she said. "Certainly it's not ideal, but I don't think it's a big problem. I'm timing the ball a little bit better than I was a few days ago." This will be of little consolation to Schnyder, who cuts a rather forlorn figure these days as she attempts to restore her career from the collapse it suffered three years ago. Ranked eighth in the world, she came under the influence of an eccentric German fitness trainer, Rainer Harnecker, abandoned her family, and went into free fall. The recovery seems to have some distance still to travel.

Schnyder's serve was frequently as wayward as her concentration. There were six double faults and fewer than half the first serves landed on target. With the path into the last 16 lying invitingly open, Davenport stepped in. She was rapidly 3-0 up, courtesy of a brace of Schnyder double faults and had a point for a 5-0 lead which the Swiss managed to fight off. But an ace, one of four she sent down, clinched the opening set in 23 minutes.

Davenport broke again in the first game of the second set and, with her racket making sweet sounds as she pounded out the winners, the Californian surged into a 4-1 lead in the second set before Schnyder surprised the crowd, and certainly shocked Davenport, with a break of serve as Davenport netted a backhand.

It was a warning well heeded. Davenport raised her game another notch or two and wrapped it up with another break of serve. It was typical of her wretched day that Schnyder double faulted on match point.

In tomorrow's fourth round Davenport plays the 14th seed, Jelena Dokic, who defeated Austria's Barbara Schett 6-3 7-5 in 65 minutes. It was a contest which Dokic played with ill-concealed anger, turning to raise a fist in the direction of her father and coach, Damir, whenever she walloped an especially meaningful winner.

All became clear afterwards. Schett, nicknamed "Babsi" by the British tabloid whose logo she wears on her sleeve and which is promoting her as top tennis totty in the absence, through injury, of Anna Kournikova, was probably the innocent party in the matter of an article in yesterday's edition headlined Babsi v The Beast, implying that father Dokic would attempt to psych Schett out of the match.

"It was really nasty about my dad," Dokic said. "It was about as bad as it could get and that's not really funny any more. If they have nothing else to write about, that's really sad.

"Saying that my dad was going to try and psych Barbara out from the side of the court was crazy. My dad doesn't deserve that." There are those who might disagree with that last comment, since Damir was the one who took his family away from Australia, where they had been welcomed and supported since departing Serbia in 1994, alleging antagonism and hypocrisy by the Australian tennis authorities.

Jelena also had a pop at Wimbledon's transportation system, since the car supposed to collect her from her hotel never arrived. She eventually took a taxi and arrived too late to practise before going out on No 1 Court to play. "If you can't organise something like transport, you can't run a tournament," she complained.

All this did not affect her play noticeably, certainly not in the first set. With three sets of binoculars in the press box prominently focused on Schett, Dokic was the one to catch the eye of most in the audience with her deep, raking groundstrokes into the corners of court. She broke for a 2-1 lead, broke again to go 5-2 ahead, then immediately dropped her own serve to love before breaking Schett once more, drawing the statuesque Austrian off the baseline and into the net before clumping a backhand volley past her to get one set up after 21 minutes.

Operating at rat-a-tat pace, Dokic sprinted 4-1 up in the second set, conceding only one point in three games, before Schett was able to apply the brakes. Though facing two more break points, which would have seen Dokic go 5-1 in front, "Babsi" merited a lone shout of "Barbara I love you" as she fought off four break points, striking a couple of aces to hold serve.

The second set then turned into a dogfight, as Dokic conceded. "She started to serve a lot better but I did really well to stay in the match," she said. Not merely to stay in it, but to win it as the Schett serve buckled under the strain at 5-6. A searing forehand down the line left her with three match points, and although Schett saved one of them, the Austrian then double faulted.

Damir Dokic, his wife and small son Savo left their courtside box without offering any outward congratulation to their daughter, but probably feeling happy that "Babsi" had received what they would have regarded as her comeuppance.

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