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1999 Wimbledon

Lindsay sends Steffi packing

Davenport wins 1st Wimbledon; Graf says she won't return

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Posted: Friday August 06, 1999 02:48 PM

  Lindsay Davenport Lindsay Davenport's victory over Steffi Graf ensured two American champions on the Fourth of July. AP

WIMBLEDON, England (CNN/SI) -- Lindsay Davenport's grass-court game has never been her strength, but that wasn't apparent this fortnight.

Playing to the level of her newly regained No. 1 ranking, Davenport ran past Steffi Graf 6-4, 7-5 Sunday and now has a Wimbledon crown to go with her U.S. Open title.

"It was almost like a dream," Davenport said after her 75-minute victory, which was delayed for 30 minutes in the second set because of rain.

"When I won I was almost more numb than in shock," she said. "I never thought that it would be my Wimbledon because I had struggled on this surface before."

Davenport started the United States on a Wimbledon double on the Fourth of July. In the men's final that followed, Pete Sampras defeated Andre Agassi 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 for his sixth Wimbledon title, matching a record with his 12th Grand Slam championship.

Davenport stopped an opponent who has won Wimbledon seven times and was coming off a sixth French Open championship. As it turned out, this was Graf's Wimbledon farewell.

"Basically, I won't be back," she said. "I won't be here as a player again."

The 30-year-old German, who has fought an array of injuries for years, did not say if she is retiring from tennis altogether.

"I will not comment on anything other than that," she said. "I have not had enough time to think about those things."

This was Davenport's first appearance in a Wimbledon final.

The 23-year-old Californian had cruised almost unnoticed into the late rounds at Wimbledon. Against Graf, Davenport showed plenty of touch, control and poise.

Cradling the silver Rosewater Dish, which dates to 1864, Davenport said: "It's the most beautiful trophy I have ever seen. I have only seen it on TV before. I wish I could take it away with me."

Davenport had never made it past the quarterfinals at Wimbledon before. She is now 2-0 in Grand Slam finals after winning the U.S. Open last September.

"The victory at the U.S. Open was incredible because it was my first," she said. "People who had said I couldn't win the big one, I felt so much pride to tell them they were wrong," Davenport said.

"Now I can't believe I overcame myself on grass to win at Wimbledon. Now I have won the two biggest tournaments there are in the world and few players can say that."

Davenport's day got even a little bit better after her victory over Graf. She won the doubles title with Corina Morariu, downing Mariaan De Swardt and Elena Tatarkova 6-4, 6-4.

That means Davenport left Wimbledon with $796,696 in winnings - $655,200 for singles, $134,216 for doubles and $7,280 for making the third round of mixed doubles. Graf's won $327,600 for her runner-up singles finish.

By reaching the final, Davenport regained the No. 1 ranking she last had in February before losing it to Martina Hingis.

"I'll take the Wimbledon championship any day over the No. 1 ranking," she said.

When Graf netted a forehand return on the second match point, Davenport let out a scream of delight and covered her mouth with her hand. After hugging Graf, she wiped away tears as she sat on her chair to await the trophy ceremony.

Graf lost a Wimbledon final only once before. That happened 12 years ago when she was 18 and playing Martina Navratilova. She had no answer for Davenport.

"I served well that was the main thing," Davenport said. "I only had two break points it's pretty amazing to convert on both and not let her break me. I played concentrated and calm and I can't believe I did it."

Choosing to receive first, Davenport broke in a long opening game that went to three deuces. She then survived a break point in the next game to go up 2-0.

Graf then held to love and then Davenport did the same to go 3-1 ahead. The match went with serve with Davenport taking the first set on the strength of that one break.

Serving for the set at 5-4, Davenport hit a forehand winner for two set points. Graf saved the first with a forehand winner but netted a backhand on the next to surrender the set in 33 minutes.

Graf had the top of her left thigh strapped. Her mobility didn't seem hampered but there was little she could do against Davenport's rock-solid serve.

Davenport gave Graf a chance when she flopped a forehand into the net to give the German a break point at 0-1 in the second set. But Davenport atoned with two forehand winners and an ace to hold.

Graf led 5-4 in the second set, with Davenport serving at 30-15, when rain stopped play. After the delay, Davenport held for 5-5 and then executed her second break point to take the lead.

A forehand into the net gave Davenport the break. She then sent a crosscourt forehand that hit the frame of Graf's racket.

Davenport raced ahead 40-15 in the final game but wasted the first match point with a weak backhand. Graf then netted the next service return, and the title belonged to Davenport.

 
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As the finish neared, Lindsay Davenport believed in her game. (90 K)
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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