8/12/2009 12:00:00 AM
LaRosa's Sweet Spot Main Page
Aug 12, 2009
I interviewed her firstborn Jagger for Tennis Magazine last year (apparently I speak baby, and this one had a lot to say) and tossed a question her way at one of her last U.S. Open press conferences. But I'd never actually met Lindsay Ann Davenport Leach. As my regular readers know, I heart Lindsay. A lot. Like, a lot a lot. So when the opportunity presented itself to sit down with the 3-time Grand Slam champ, Olympic gold medalist and queen of the universe, I had two goals. Do not scare Lindsay. And do not pass out. Thank God for me (and for Lindsay, let's be honest), I had the Sweet Spot's good buddy and Lindsay's BFF Corina Morariu there to hold my hand. Or stand by with a sniper if things got out of hand.
Lindsay, I'm what you'd call a fan. And as Corina can tell you, I'm also kind of a spaz. So if I geek out too much, feel free to rein me in.
James' new bff.
Lindsay: You got it.
First and foremost, congratulations on the new baby (Lauren Andrus Davenport Leach, born June 27th). How's the family doing with the newest addition?
Lindsay: It's been great. It's gone a little bit smoother than we thought it would. We thought my son would have a little bit more trouble, but he's been behaving reasonably well. She's great. She's a very good little baby.
Andrus is an unusual name.
Lindsay: It's a family name, from my dad's side.
Word on the street was you were a little nervous when you heard you were having a girl.
Lindsay: I am, still. I'd always dreamt of having lots of boys. So for me, having a girl was a huge shock. Which I know makes no sense, you just want a healthy baby. I was a tomboy. I've never really been into a lot of the stuff more quote normal girls are into. So I'm a little bit worried of having a princess.
When she asks for Barbies…
Lindsay: I can handle Barbies. I can't handle, like, designer stuff at a young age. And, like, (whining) "I can't wear that." "You didn’t do my hair right." That's the kind of stuff that's not going to go over well in the house.
Has Aunt Corina been a big help?
Lindsay: (Laughs) Aunt Corina comes over quite a bit. She has not offered to babysit. (Corina laughs.) No, you did the one time with Jagger.
Corina: I did, I totally did! She's full of it.
Lindsay: She's been fantastic. She's part of the family.
And now you're tiptoeing into the world of commentating. What's been the biggest shift going from the court to the booth?
Lindsay: If I used to watch tennis when I was playing, I would have my eyes on specifically one thing, whether that's someone's strengths or weakness. And now, it’s a little more difficult in the booth because you're trying to capture the whole match and the whole atmosphere of it. It's a little tougher than I thought it would be in terms of trying to keep your thoughts organized and keeping your eye on the game plan and everything else you're supposed to say.
Corina, you've been commentating for a little while now. What advice have you given Lindsay?
Corina: I just share with her what people have shared with me. I don't pretend to be an expert by any stretch of the imagination. We're kind of learning it together. It's fun for us to be able to do that as a team.
You two have ridiculous chemistry. On court, in the booth. Corina, what is it about Lindsay you groove to?
Lindsay: Oh jeez.
Corina: (smiles) We've been through so much together. I mean, we've known each other for more than ten years, we've played doubles together. And I've had some challenges in my life, and she's been there for me…thanks, so now I'll start getting emotional…but every step of the way. When you go through your life with someone by your side like a sister, that chemistry is innate. I feel incredibly lucky that our lives have panned out this way. For me it's like a dream come true.
Lindsay, are you going to be as earnest when I ask what you groove to about Corina, or are you going to take a swipe?
Lindsay: Well she didn't really answer the question.
That's some good commentating. "I notice you dodged the question completely."
Lindsay: (laughs, to Corina) But eloquently. I'm not putting your answer down.
Corina: We share the same sense of humor.
Lindsay: Sarcasm. We have the same stride.
It's been said often Lindsay that you have the cleanest strokes in the game.
LD: Well, and my footspeed. (laughs)
They call ya Rocket Lindsay.
Corina: And her poaching at the net.
What's the secret to your strokes? And do you keep it in a vault somewhere like a KFC recipe?
Lindsay: (smiles) I have no idea. Every…I hesitate to say great, but every great player has their greatest attribute, and mine was definitely timing and pace of shot. All of that is completely natural. You can't really learn how to do that I don't think. A few players are able to have everything. Like Roger Federer. He has speed, power, everything. I think it's a tough thing to teach. The toughest.
Corina: That's one of those innate things. You obviously work to cultivate it. But eye-hand coordination, timing, it's a talent.
Lindsay: Andre had it. And he had it way better than anyone does.
Corina: He just sees the ball. There are ways to work on improving it. But to see the ball a certain way and to be able to swing and time… It's like footspeed. Or mental toughness. They're all talents.
Corina, what is it like to face her groundstrokes?
Corina: It stinks. I hated it like poison. (Lindsay laughs)
Lindsay: I would just use that high ball to her backhand.
Corina: She would just torture me with her backhand to mine. I had a decent backhand but there was no way I could keep up. I would have rather played Venus or Serena. With Venus and Serena, you'd sort of work your way into the point, they'd make some unforced errors, or they'd be a little sloppy with their footwork. There were certain plays I felt like I could use against them. [With Lindsay] everyone's like, oh, make her move. Well it's hard to make her move when she's hitting the ball (gestures a couple inches) from the line every time.
You contributed to Lindsay's 37 doubles titles. Lindsay, you also amassed 55 singles titles, putting you at 7th all time. Where do you keep all the trophies?
Corina and Lindsay collecting trophies.
Lindsay: (smiles guiltily) Currently, they are in storage boxes. We've moved a couple times in the last few years, BUT I am going to unpack them in the coming weeks.
So is there going to be a Lindsay Museum at the house? A Lindsay Wing?
Lindsay: No, we just redid our house, and for the first time we put a little trophy cabinet up. It's not big. My husband has a few he wants to put up and I'm going to choose my favorites, probably about ten or so, put 'em up there, lock the door, and hopefully no one steals them.
Would you ever take his few and just surround them with almost a hundred of yours…?
Lindsay: (they laugh) That's what we're trying to avoid. He has a couple and I said I'd keep mine at a minimum. We've got to have room for our kids' trophies too.
Have you been able to get back on the court since having Lauren?
Lindsay: Yeah, we've been playing quite a bit. It's such a different mindset to go out there and play for fun. I hope for it to always be a part of my life. I started playing tennis because I loved it. I was young, I was lucky my parents let me do what I want and I always wanted to play tennis. I'm lucky I'm married to a guy who loves tennis as well (investment banker and former All American tennis player Jon Leach), so I hope it's always a part of our lives. I didn't play during the pregnancy so I was really excited after the baby to come back and start playing again and practicing and all that.
You won a few of those titles months after having Jagger. You said he gave you magical powers. Could Lauren provide any of that magic?
Lindsay: She hasn't yet, dammit (she pounds the table, laughs).
(Writer's note: I laugh too, but I have an agenda.)
Are you officially retired?
Lindsay: It's funny in this sport. Officially retired in other sports is like, you don't sign with a team. [In tennis] it's our choice. I'm definitely retired as right now I'm not playing, I have no plans to play. Officially I don't know, if I decide something or what, but…
You've always been go with the flow.
Lindsay: Yeah. There's some stuff that might come up that I might do, but I'm not coming back to the tour full time like I did last time. Not a chance.
My time is up, I take my broken heart (or my glimmer of hope, depending on how you want to read into her words), thank them kindly and head for the door. But I have one more question, the one that'll bug me the most if I don't ask. And it's for Corina.
I kept the geeking to a minimum, right?
Corina: You did good.
P.S. Inspired by my awesomely bad tennis sites column from a few weeks back, I bit the bullet and have joined Justin Gimelstob and Serena Williams on Twitter. If you need a 140-character dose of the Sweet Spot and you can't wait till Wednesday, have I got a twit for you. Follow me at www.twitter.com/JamesLaRosa. It should be a trainwreck.