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By Chris Oddo | Monday August 1, 2016

 
Lindsay Davenport

Hall of Famer Lindsay Davenport discusses Serena Williams' longevity, Roger Federer's future and the rise of Madison Keys in our U.S. Open Series Q&A.

Photo Source: Michael Dwyer/AP

Lindsay Davenport is a three-time Grand Slam singles champion, a former world No. 1 in both singles and doubles and a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Davenport has parlayed her on-court triumphs into a very successful career as a broadcaster, where she's well known for her insight, honesty and passion for tennis. That's not all. Davenport also recently enjoyed a successful stint as the coach of Madison Keys, helping lead the rising American to her first Grand Slam semifinal at the age of 19. We caught up with Davenport via telephone to discuss developing U.S. Open Series storylines like the rise of Keys, Roger Federer's shock injury announcement and the longevity of Serena Williams.

More: Halep Oust Keys to Claim Rogers Cup Title

TN:
I Want to talk about a player that is near and dear to your heart—Madison Keys. You said yesterday during the broadcast of her Rogers Cup victory over Venus Williams that it’s only going to be a matter of time before she’s winning tournaments like the Rogers Cup regularly. Do you really see that type of future for her, when she’s winning a lot of big titles, and what do you think needs to click for her in order to make it happen?

Lindsay Davenport: Madison’s made so many positive strides in the last couple of years, and she’s done it on her own time. You watch her play and it’s obvious—you can see the athleticism and the power—and she’s done a better job of learning how to use all her weapons to her benefit. There’s obviously going to be bumps in the road. The biggest thing for her is the belief and holding up under pressure, and that’s something that she has worked incredibly hard on at getting better in the last year, year and a half, and I know it’s always a constant focus for her.

She wants it. And you don’t always know that with a player. Their work ethic tells you a lot. Anyone can so 'Oh I want to win Grand Slams and I want to be the best in the world,' but it’s how they go about their business. And just having the opportunity to be so close to Madison she definitely wants it and it’s really hers to take in the next few years. Obviously Serena is still in the game, it’s going to be hard for anyone to surpass her but whether that’s three more years or four more years—however long Serena plays—that next generation, there’s a lot of opportunity there.

TN: Her run with Thomas Hogstedt has been very steady—a lot of good results. Is there anything specific you’ve seen working for her during this brief time with him?

Lindsay Davenport: Thomas Hogstedt is a very strict coach and he has got her to be much more disciplined on the court and I know their practices are very structured; he’s very tough on her and he holds her accountable, which is really important. You can see in matches when she starts to lose her focus or starts to lose her concentration, he’s done a really great job of pulling her back in.

You have to be tough on players. It’s an interesting mix, about being tough but also getting the best out of them, and I’ve been really impressed with what he’s been able to pull out of Madison in the last couple of months.

TN: This might seem a bit of a weird question, last one on Madison… do you ever get the feeling that she’s such a nice person and so fun to be around and so good-natured, do you ever get the feeling that she’s maybe too nice and maybe needs to be a little more shrewd?

Lindsay Davenport: I don’t. I think that kind of mindset is a little more old school. I think we’ve seen some of the greatest champions from Kim Clijsters and Roger Federer, and even Serena now. You guys see how she can behave and how she competes on court. If you get her off court she is now one of the friendliest players in the locker room and around tennis, and Madison, she is feisty, and she is competitive when she’s on court. She takes the losses very hard. She doesn’t come off the court after a loss and start laughing and giggling. It takes a while for her to compose herself which is a great sign of how badly she wants it.

TN: Moving on to Serena who you just mentioned, we talk a lot about her major titles—of course—but also with the No.1 ranking it’s now 181 consecutive weeks which is five off the all-time record, she’s got 304 weeks at No. 1 overall, which puts her 73 behind Steffi’s record. Do you think she has a shot of getting to Steffi Graf’s record of 377 total weeks at No. 1—if she does it she’ll be 36 by then.

Lindsay Davenport: I do actually. It all depends on how she manages her schedule the next few years. It’s obviously going to be a challenge. Her priorities are the majors, her priorities are the biggest tournaments out there. How healthy can she stay? But when she’s playing her best, no one can really compete with her. I don’t think it’s safe to say that she can’t break any record. Anything is in play when you talk about Serena Williams. Winning tournaments, weeks at No. 1—I think she’s ready to rewrite history really in all areas.

TN: You know a thing or two about the No. 1 ranking, you held it for just about 100 weeks. How significant do you think that would be for her legacy? Obviously she doesn’t need to prove anything else. But would that go down in history as one of her top achievements?

Lindsay Davenport: I think she’s so focused on the majors and finishing with the most Grand Slam singles titles. I’m not really sure about the No.1 ranking for Serena personally, but I know that she would like that she would like to go down as a record breaker—record leader—in every category. So I’m sure it’s a focus, although I’m sure she believes that if she wins the majors the ranking will happen. Yeah, it’s going to be different for her. She’s not going to play 20, 22 tournaments a year and chase rankings points and worry about that. She’s going to play when she’s healthy, when she’s ready to go and what allows her to play her best tennis at the majors, and we’ll have to see if her body can hold up.

TN: Same subject but slightly different angle. When it’s finally time for Serena to no longer be No. 1, who do you see stepping in there?

Lindsay Davenport: It’s so interesting with this next generation that’s coming up because I think they’re all so in awe of Serena as most of us are. Who really believes they can be No.1 and who wants it? Victoria Azarenka, she seemed the most determined and then we get the surprise announcement that she’s having a baby this year, which is great for her, but that will obviously take her out of competition for a bit of time. You know for Madison it’s a process of believing that she should and could be No.1. You get players like Simona Halep and Angelique Kerber, you just never know how much a player wants it and how much they believe in it. And I still think we have a bunch of players coming up that haven’t had their big breakthrough win yet to announce their arrival.

TN: Moving on, big news with Roger Federer this week. Kind of a shock to the tennis world. I wonder what your take is on his decision to skip the rest of the season and do you think a short off-season in tennis is maybe one of the limiting factors that shortens careers. Do you think this eventually could be a good thing for Roger?

Lindsay Davenport: Yeah, it could be. He’s managed to go through his whole career with no major injuries until this year, but he’s got knee problems, he’s got back problems. Everybody wants him to play as long as possible. You get a sense of maybe how seriously injured he has been all year that he’s had to now announce that he’s taking the rest of the year off. We’ll see how he recovers. Everybody wants him to play and he has obviously shown publicly that he wants to play for as long as possible.

TN: Do you think that you, hypothetically, could have had a longer career if there was a three or four month off-season?

Lindsay Davenport: Possibly. I think the major factor is how a player manages their schedule. If you do that the right way and you train the right way I think the players of this generation have shown that you can play for a very long time. If you play smart, if you have a good team around you and you’re focused.

 

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