We are in Filderstadt, Germany for the final of the Porsche Grand Prix tournament. Lindsay Davenport and Amelie Mauresmo are playing today. Davenport has already won five tournaments this year. Kim Clijsters was knocked off in the quarterfinals by Elena Dementieva so there is a chance that Davenport can end the year at number one.
The TennisSporthalle is a boxy indoor stadium with a very fast hard court. The bottom tier of stands has only a few rows at the end and only five rows on one side. An overhanging tier brings the spectators close to the court and makes the building seem small. It looks like an elegant high school gym in comparison with the huge outdoor stadiums where many tennis tournaments are now held. Clearly the prize money does not rely on gate income.
Davenport hits hard flat shots and has a strong first serve. Mauresmo hits looping topspin shots and has an average serve. Mauresmo’s weaknesses play to Davenport’s strengths which are magnified on this fast surface. Davenport’s serve will be stronger and her flat shorts will get where they’re going that much quicker. If I were trying to make some easy money, I’d place more than a few dollars on Davenport in this match.
On the first point in the third game, Mauresmo floats a ball to Davenport who then slams it into a corner out of Mauresmo’s reach. You have to put the ball in the middle of the court and keep it low to prevent Davenport from hitting winners. Mauresmo hit it to the middle but it was high and that allowed Davenport to take the ball early and put it away. Mauresmo is broken at love in the game.
On some days a player hits the ball so well that it doesn’t matter what their opponent does. Early on, that’s what Mauresmo must be saying to herself. Everything Davenport hits goes for a winner. But it goes both ways. In some matches one player starts out playing poorly and this stokes the other player’s confidence so much that it helps propel them to a high level of tennis. Mauresmo knows that she has to play more aggressively if she wants to win a grand slam so she’s been adding more net play to her game. She starts the match by coming to the net often. Problem is, Davenport passes her and it’s just gets worse as the set continues. In fact, by the end of the match, Davenport will have come to the net more often and won more points there, 10/14 versus 7/12.
If I were trying to make some easy money, I’d place more than a few dollars on Davenport in this match.
It might be hard for Mauresmo to flatten out her topspin ground strokes, they come in handy on clay after all, but she could improve her serve. She falls off to the left at the end of her service motion. If her toss propelled her into the court instead of off to the side, she would have more power and get more aces – something she desperately needs today. Watch Davenport’s serve. Her toss is far forward and she ends up a few feet inside the baseline at the end of the motion. When she gets behind, she can throw in an ace or a service winner to catch up.
Mauresmo hangs in better in the second set. In the best point of the match, Davenport serves wide and low and Mauresmo hits it back with an equally wide crosscourt shot. Davenport has to run completely off the court to get to the ball and hit it down the line and into the corner. Mauresmo manages to stab at it and get it over the net and that’s enough because Davenport still hasn’t made it back to the court. On the next point Mauresmo hits a rocket flat backhand so fast that Davenport doesn’t even take a step towards it. See, she can do it. Davenport wins the game with yet another ace but Mauresmo has picked up some momentum and gets to a 3-2 lead.
Mauresmo has luck and skill in the next game. Davenport has game point when Mauresmo floats yet another return. She then runs Davenport wide left and right. Davenport manages to makes two great saves but Mauresmo runs her back the other way one more time and the point is over. Lucky for Mauresmo, Davenport goes through one of those walkabouts she sometimes takes when she gets a set lead. She started off with a double fault and hit five more errors in the game to give Mauresmo a 4-2 lead.
Things are back to normal quickly in the next game. Davenport breaks with three winners. The crowd is trying to make this a match, they rhythm clap any time Mauresmo gets behind, but Mauresmo sends too many balls long and into the net. She’s had her chances, she had six break points but only converted one.
It’s over pretty quickly now and Davenport has her fiftieth career title, ninth on the list of all-time career titleholders, a beautiful candy red Cayman S Porsche. It’s worth about $58, 000. That explains some of the prize money. Davenport can add this to her black Cayenne and Carrera from her titles here last year and 2001. Maybe she’ll trade a few of them in for a Toyota Prius if gas prices keep rising.
The day ends with Davenport folding her six foot two inch frame into the car and driving it in a half circle on the court while the announcer sits in the passenger seat with a microphone and asks her about the sound system. If Porsche is going to put up all that money, they’re going to get their mileage out of it.