Devonshire Park stroll for revitalised Davenport

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The Independent Online

It was a nice little earner and a pleasant canter in the sun for Lindsay Davenport in yesterday's Eastbourne final, an occasion marred only by the disturbing sight of the American receiving attention to the right knee which kept her out of action for three months before this tournament. Between sets in her 6-2 6-0 victory in just 43 minutes over Spain's Magui Serna, Davenport sat on the grass as a trainer removed and then reapplied the protective patch she was wearing. But before the alarm bells ring out at Wimbledon, Lindsay hastened to reassure everyone there had been no recurrence of the injury.

"I was sweating and the patch was coming loose so the trainer decided to re-tape it," she said. "It never hurt me.'' The bandage, she explained, "is supposed to hold my kneecap in the right spot because of the problems I have been having. I could probably have played the match without it but I was told it would be best to put it on."

For someone so short of match competition, the 25-year-old top seed was in impressive form at Devonshire Park, as well as being appropriately attired for the occasion to reap the first prize of £58,500 in a harvest festival combination of russet top and red and gold skirt. Davenport was delighted with her week, too.

"I'm not just happy about coming through a warm-up, this was a return to victory for me and a great title to have," she said. "Each match I played here I felt more and more confident. Yesterday's semi-final and today was some of the best tennis I have played. I am ecstatic, excited and eager and in a rush to get to Wimbledon now. I can't wait to get back there and I'm so happy to be playing again. It only took me the first three sets this week to get used to being back and I felt perfect the last few days."

There was certainly little wrong with the Davenport performance yesterday, apart from occasional raggedness on the volley. She conceded only eight points on serve and swept through nine successive games to rout the sturdy, left-handed Serna, who has yet to win a title on the WTA tour. She has also now lost four times to Davenport without even collecting a set.

Serna was not without her supporters, waving the red and yellow banners of Spain and yelling what seemed cat-calls of "mowee", which turned out to be the Iberian pronunciation of her first name. But, hard as they cheered and she tried, Serna was never able to dent the Davenport confidence. The Californian six-footer took quick command with flat, raking shots which hugged the lines and which the diminutive Serna literally did not have the legs to reach.

Serna was also punished for wayward serving. Each of her five double-faults led to a service break and the most expensive cost her the first set. Not that Davenport needed any such help to encourage her well-wishers and the male group tucking into the tinnies on the balcony of a nearby house which flaunted a "Come on Lindsay" banner.

Though this title is by no means the most important of the 33 she has so far annexed it has proved a perfect remedy for worry. "When you are out for an extended period, as I was, you realise how much you miss tennis," she said. "I was out for what seemed a very long time and I wasn't sure about my future and when I would be back. So this has just been an amazing week."

As Wimbledon's third seed, Davenport is drawn to face the holder, Venus Williams, in the semi-finals. Venus has been downplaying her prospects of a repeat, saying: "The past couple of days I have been thinking about the kind of mind-set I had when I won, when I wanted to win at all costs. This year I feel quite differently, so I have to get back into that attitude."

The comment bounced off Davenport. "I can't worry what everyone else is thinking," she smiled. "But I am sure the top players come very well prepared." Stressing her own readiness for battle, she added: "Grass courts suit my game and if I serve well it is going to be difficult to beat me. Once I got a bit more sure of myself here at Eastbourne I was pretty difficult to beat, too. After being out for so long I was hungry to come back."

Davenport revealed that she had travelled to France hoping to play at Roland Garros four weeks ago but the injury to her knee bone had not healed sufficiently. "So I set my sights on coming back strong on grass. It might have been more difficult for me to attempt it on clay. Grass is better for me, the points are shorter and I felt more comfortable." Now Davenport, who offered a special wave of thanks to the balcony beer-drinkers, will concentrate on nightly taping and icing of the knee, possibly followed by a gentle crossing of fingers.