Tennis start Davenport shares tips, time with Patch H.S. kids
FILDERSTADT, Germany — It helps to have friends in high places, and the Patch High School tennis team has one in Lindsay Davenport.
Davenport, currently the No. 2-ranked player in the world, treated the Patch players Wednesday to a day of tennis as the WTA Tour came to Stuttgart.
After she defeated Italian Francesca Schiavone, 6-2, 6-2, in the second round, Davenport was greeted by the Patch players as she made her way to the press tent for the post-match interview.
They were hard to miss — the players held up a large banner that read, “We Love Lindsay.”
“It was great to see,” Davenport said. “Last year, I went to the school and heard their stories, and now I come back and see some of the same faces.”
Davenport, winner of 49 career singles titles including three of the four majors — the U.S. Open, Australian Open and Wimbledon — is defending champion at the Stuttgart tournament, called the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix. A victory this week would lift her back into the No. 1 spot, which she held earlier this year.
Davenport’s gift was arranged by Walter Fritz, Patch tennis coach and a former tournament director in Bahrain.
Over the years, he has also helped bring tennis stars Steffi Graf, Andre Agassi, and Venus and Serena Williams to the school, located on Patch Barracks.
Davenport, who last year hit balls with the team and addressed the school at an assembly, was trying to round up some more tickets for Friday’s matches.
“I was blown away by last year’s visit to the base and seeing the school,” Davenport said. “We’re kind of sheltered from that in the U.S. Sometimes in the U.S. you would never know that we’re in a war.
“But here you hear a lot of things, meet some of the families involved and hear some stories.”
The Patch players marveled at how a world-famous sports star with nearly $21 million in career earnings, as well as the other pros they’ve met, were so down to earth. Davenport signed autographs and chatted with all of them before stepping into her press conference.
“They have that celebrity status,” said Anna Johnson, a 16-year-old junior. “But they’re still normal.”
Some of the high-school players looked to the pros for tips. Hank Anderson, a 17-year-old senior, said he watched to learn techniques such as hitting forehands and backhands and keeping a straight wrist.
Michelle Whitbeck, a 16-year- old junior, had her eye on strategy.
“Things like ball placement, how to bring [an opponent] up to the net, and how to put away the volleys,” Whitbeck said.
And while watching tennis on TV has its usefulness, according to Joey Pirosko, a 16-year-old junior, it doesn’t tell the whole story.
“Going to the game,” he said, “is a lot more exciting.”