As Lindsay Davenport gets set to take over as the U.S. captain for Billie Jean King Cup, she thinks back to what she called “the most amazing” of her three championships as a player in the team competition.
It was in 1999, back when the event was still known as the Fed Cup, and King was the Americans’ captain. Davenport helped beat Russia in the final with newly crowned U.S. Open champion Serena Williams, then just 17, and Venus Williams.
“Can you believe it?” Davenport said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “The media frenzy was really at an all-time high because of Serena; she had just won her first major. It was pretty awesome to be there and be a part of it.”
Now Davenport, a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, is going to replace Kathy Rinaldi in charge of the team after this year’s Billie Jean King Cup Finals, a switch the U.S. Tennis Association announced on Wednesday. And Davenport’s roster could include a teenager who just won the U.S. Open: Coco Gauff.
“Coco’s result at the U.S. Open was just remarkable. It really felt so great for American women’s tennis to see that happen, to see that play out,” Davenport said. “There’s been a lot of pressure on her the last five or so years to be able to accomplish that, and for that to happen at her home Slam is pretty awesome.”
Davenport, who is from California, won three Grand Slam titles in singles, another three in doubles and reached No. 1 in the WTA singles and doubles rankings. She also earned a gold medal at the 1996 Olympics and went 26-3 in singles and 7-0 in doubles in the Billie Jean King Cup while winning titles in 1996, 1999 and 2000 — each with King as captain. Only Chris Evert won more singles matches for the United States in the event that changed its name to honor King in 2020.
“I remember vividly all the Fed Cup ties and the winning and the camaraderie and some of the amazing teams I was able to be a part of,” Davenport said. “And now I’m excited to be able to experience it from a different lens and try and be — well, I will never live up to, but try and be similar to — how Billie was as captain and see what kind of job I can do.”
Rinaldi became the U.S. captain in December 2016 and led the team to the title in 2017. The USTA said in June that she would step down after this year’s Billie Jean King Cup Finals are held in Seville, Spain, from Nov. 7-12, but stay on as the head of its women’s program for player development.
Davenport will also take on a role in player development for the USTA.
She was the singles champion at the U.S. Open in 1988, Wimbledon in 1999 and Australian Open in 2000, and a major runner-up four times.
Davenport retired as a player in 2010 and was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2014. She has worked as a coach, including with Madison Keys, and a television analyst.
“Hopefully I can lead with a certain amount of motivation and also hopefully we’ll be well-prepared, we’ll be ready to go,” Davenport said. “I’ve had a couple of different captains; Billie was obviously the most energetic and the most inspiring. I’m not quite sure my personality is quite like hers, but certainly I’ll try to be as motivating as possible.”
AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis