Lindsay Davenport has the most clueless mom in pro tennis. Ann
Davenport doesn't coach her daughter, manage her daughter or
represent her daughter. She doesn't order her daughter's
clothes, lunch or boyfriends. She doesn't write her daughter's
letters, speeches or checks. What kind of caring tennis parent
doesn't have at least one restraining order against her?
Lindsay may be among the favorites to win the U.S. Open women's
singles title, but her mom sure isn't acting like it. Most
tennis parents are on their offspring like Dr. Dentons. Where's
Ann? Not in the locker room or the press room. She watched
Lindsay play a match the other day, didn't scream advice once,
clapped happily when Lindsay won and then went back to her
hotel. "We might talk tonight," Ann said, "but she's awfully
Uh, hello? Last year Justin Gimelstob's dad almost got in a
fistfight with Andre Agassi's coach, Brad Gilbert. Has Ann ever
thrown a haymaker at Steffi Graf's coach? Earlier this year
Richard Williams announced that he wanted his daughter Venus to
retire at 22. When's the last time Ann Davenport made a crucial
life decision for Lindsay? No wonder Ann works full time as
president of the Southern California Volleyball Association. She
doesn't have the sense to live off her daughter!
Longtime tennis writers could no more pick Ann Davenport out of
a crowd than J.D. Salinger. She has been to only one Grand Slam
venue--this one. Ever! Lindsay won this year's Wimbledon, but
was Ann there? No! She was busy with her own life. The nerve!
Superstar Martina Hingis recently dismissed her coach-racket
stringer-agent-mom, Melanie Molitor, then took her back five
weeks later, explaining, "We kind of complete each other."
What's Ann thinking, bringing up a daughter who's already
Ann's not Lindsay's psychiatrist, masseuse or publicist. She's
not her valet, chauffeur or accountant. She's not her crutch,
salvation or guru. All she is is her mother. In a way, she's not
even that. "I think we're more like sisters," says Lindsay, 23,
who lives with Ann, 57, in Newport Beach, Calif. "We have so
much fun together."
Fun? Tennis parents do not have fun.
Samantha Stevenson, the freelance sportswriter who delivers the
big stories, is the mom of 18-year-old Alexandra Stevenson. Not
only is Samantha at Alexandra's interviews, she takes over most
of them. She's on the practice court, in the trainer's room and
in the hotel suite next door. She says she has to protect
Alexandra from the rampant lesbianism in the women's locker
room. "I don't want my daughter in there alone," she says. Just
to be sure, when Alexandra went on a date in August, Samantha
went, too, maybe just to double-check. All right, buster. Cough
Ann, meanwhile, is pathetic. She doesn't use her daughter as an
ATM, the way Jennifer Capriati's dad reportedly did. She doesn't
use her daughter as a punching bag, the way Mirjana Lucic's dad
allegedly did. She doesn't need to be banned from the circuit
and court-ordered to stay away from her daughter, the way Mary
Pierce's dad was.
"I just always wanted Lindsay to make her own decisions and her
own mistakes," says Ann. "It's her life, and it's her career. I
just stayed with her until she got up on her own two feet."
Three years ago Lindsay moved back in with her mom, but only
because she really needed somebody. Not Lindsay. Ann. She and her
husband of 28 years, Wink, were divorcing. Lindsay came back just
to get her mom up on her own two feet.
Now they're closer than freckles on a redhead. O.K., sometimes
Ann will say, "You really need to wear something a little more
form-fitting," and Lindsay will break down and do it. She lost
30 pounds over three years, with her mother's help, and Ann
says, "I think she should show it off." Sometimes she'll go off
on dates, leaving her housemate alone for the evening, but
Lindsay can handle it.
Maybe it's a coincidence, but ever since Lindsay got her
terrific new roomie, her tennis has been terrific. Three years
ago she was ranked No. 9 in the world. Now she's won two of the
last four Grand Slam tournaments and is ranked No 2. Ann,
naturally, is here at the U.S. Open to guide her. Not on the
court. "Bloomingdale's," Ann says, laughing.
Every now and then a woman--not a girl--shows up on top of
tennis. When it happens, it's usually because she was given the
chance to become one.
COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA
Ann Davenport is pathetic. She doesn't use Lindsay as an ATM.
She doesn't use Lindsay as a punching bag.