Lindsay Davenport was in the middle of another major life milestone when she found out she had been elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
The three-time Grand Slam champion got the call when she was in a hospital about to give birth to her fourth child in early January. With daughter Haven nearly 2 months old now, the Palos Verdes native can start to reflect on the honor.
“Growing up playing tennis, getting to the Hall of Fame was never even in my dreams,” she said on a conference call Monday after the class of 2014 was announced. “It seemed a little bit too big for me.”
It never occurred to her until after she won her second major title in 1999 and Bud Collins, a Hall of Famer himself, mentioned the possibility. The 37-year-old Davenport is thrilled that at the enshrinement ceremony in Newport, R.I., on July 12, her 6-year-old son Jagger will get to learn about the sport’s history. He plays tennis, too.
Davenport will be joined by five-time Paralympic medalist Chantal Vandierendonck in the recent player category and coach Nick Bollettieri, executive Jane Brown Grimes and broadcaster John Barrett in the contributor category.
Davenport won the 1998 U.S. Open, 1999 Wimbledon, 2000 Australian Open and 1996 Olympic gold medal to go with three major doubles titles. The American held the world’s No. 1 ranking for 98 weeks in her career.
That first major championship, at her home Grand Slam event, always will be special.
“For any player who has ever played with insecurity, not sure where they’re supposed to be, how good they are, that really was a huge moment, not just in my career but for me personally,” Davenport said.
Bollettieri, now 82, has coached 10 players to the No. 1 ranking, including Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Monica Seles and Boris Becker. In 1978, he founded the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, the first full-time tennis boarding school.
At a news conference in New York, Bollettieri acknowledged this was one of the few times in his life he felt at a loss for words.
“To be standing aside some of the players I’ve helped achieve what they are,” he said, “is a dream that even Nick Bollettieri can’t comprehend.”
Vandierendonck was a top Dutch player before she was injured in a car accident in 1983 and went on to become a pioneer in wheelchair tennis.
Brown Grimes is a former managing director of the Women’s Professional Tennis Council, now known as the WTA Tour Board; president of the U.S. Tennis Association; and president of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Barrett was the “Voice of Wimbledon” on the BBC from 1971-06. His wife, former top-ranked player Angela Mortimer Barrett, was inducted into the Hall in 1993. Agassi and Steffi Graf are the only other married couple in the Hall.
Davenport wishes she’d done a better job during her career of following Billie Jean King’s advice to “enjoy the process.” But she’s proud that she believes she always played the sport for the right reasons.
“You’re not great at something unless you love it,” she said.