In her mind's eye Eleni Daniilidou sees a night in Athens three weeks ago when she approached Greek goddess status. Her dramatic second-round upset of 15thseeded Magdalena Maleeva lit up the Olympic tennis stadium, a site that until then had seemed lifeless. "I took a few steps onto the court, and 8,000 people were clapping for me," says Daniilidou, a native of Greece who lives six hours north of Athens in Thessaloniki.
Leading 4-2 in the third set, Daniilidou suffered a slight tear in her left quadriceps and was barely able to move. Playing on, she fell twice, and as she lay on the court after her second collapse, the umpire told her to stand up or quit. "It didn't cross my mind--not for one second--to retire," says Daniilidou, 21, who was energized by the frenzied encouragement of the flag-waving Greeks. "The crowd gave me the power to continue."
After she won 6-4 in the third, Daniilidou was told by a doctor that it would be risky to play her next match, against the No. 3 seed, Anastasia Myskina. "I'd love to take this risk," she remembers saying, "with this crowd and the Olympics here." Alas, she lost to Myskina in straight sets.
The Greek gods followed Daniilidou to New York, where she reached the fourth round--the furthest she's ever gone at the Open--before losing to Shinobu Asagoe on Monday. The atmosphere, however, was less magical than in Athens. The 29th-seeded Daniilidou's early matches were relegated to sparsely attended outer courts, and the press conference after her third-round win over Russian teenager Anna Chakvetadze drew an audience of two. Still, said Daniilidou, "it's a Grand Slam, so it's something special." --Kristin Green Morse
MANNY MILLAN (DANIILIDOU
Daniilidou followed her brave performance at the Olympics with a strong showing at the Open.