When tennis fans of the world think about American’s women’s tennis, the mind automatically drifts to images of the Williams Sisters on court holding gleaming silver trophies above their head; images of the old faces like Lindsey Davenport’s long powerful service motion, Jennifer Capriati fist pump, or Chris Evert’s classic two handed backhand. Lauren Davis with her long ponytail slicked back behind a white visor is not an image that often comes to mind. And although Lauren Davis’s powerful loopy forehand is not yet in that same stature of famous silhouettes, the young American is seeing a resurgence on tour that is bringing her name and game to the forefront of the WTA.
As Lauren Davis heads into the important March tennis swing of Indian Wells and Miami, she will enter those tournaments at an all time rankings high of #37. Although only 23, the young American has been on tour for the past 6 years, and had previously not climbed inside the top #50. Davis had previously tempted the phenom hungry American fans in 2012 when making the round of 16 at Roland Garros as a 19 year old, and then made the round of 32 in both Wimbledon and the Australian Open in 2014. A great mover on court, the knock against Davis by her critics, and what many believed had stifled her progress on tour, was an inability to generate offense, that lack of a weapon to put a point away. Many pointed out that her small stature (5’2) almost makes it impossible to develop these sorts of weapons.
Lauren Davis Bringing Her Name And Game To The Forefront
But 2017 has seemed to be the year that women of small physical stature find big swings. With the likes of Ashleigh Barty joining Dominika Cibulkova in showing that no matter one’s size, power can be generated, Davis is too showing that she can couple great court movement with added power. At the WTA tour stop in Auckland (where she would capture her first WTA tour level title) Davis peppered the court with forehand return winners and aggressive deep court shots. The added aggression resulted in many more break opportunities.
The Auckland final against Ana Konjuh was a microcosm of her season in another way. Davis, whose serve has long been a liability, served more aggressively and faced many less break points in result. At 5’2, the strength of her serve will naturally be limited, but in Auckland, Davis forced herself to go for more and was rewarded. Against the big hitting Konjuh, she faced no break points the entire game. She continued this more aggressive serving as she reached the quarterfinals of both Dubai and Doha and her ranking climbed to an all time high.
Along with improved power and aggression, Davis has also simply seemed more confident and content on the court. After winning in Auckland, Davis commented to the WTA Insider that,”I’m really pleased with the way I have been playing, enjoying myself and sticking to my game plan, just really having fun,” she said.
Success in Indian Wells
Long known for her positive attitude, and personal faith on tour, Lauren Davis seemed to be burdened with the pressure of results in 2015 and that burden did not produce the quality play she longed for. Her “having fun” attitude has however, resulted in more typically positive behavior on court again. Her coaching partnership with Jorge Todero (a coach familiar with many American players and fans because of his partnership with USTA Development) has also seemed to help her confidence. Their on court demeanor with each other shows a real trust in both the process and game plan they are pushing in 2017. A game plan that has lead to wins over the likes of Elena Vesnina (Doha), Ekaterina Makarova (Dubai), Barbora Strycova (Auckland), and Kiki Bertins (Auckland).
Davis’ success continues as she enters the second week of Indian Wells after defeating 22nd seed Anastajia Sevastova from Latvia on Sunday. She followed that up with a comfortable straight-set victory over Julia Goerges to progress to the fourth round. Davis’ ranking will continue to climb with results like this as she has relatively few points to defend this Spring and early Summer setting her up for potential seeding at both the French Open and Wimbledon.
In a country and sport continually looking for the Williams Sister’s replacements, and with the likes of Sloane Stephens being sidelined due to injury, Lauren Davis is making her claim to be talked about with the likes of Madison Keys and Coco Vandeweghe. Maybe her silhouette and swings aren’t as recognizable yet as some of the mainstays in American women’s tennis, but she is definitely causing both the fans and players on the WTA tour to remember her name and who knows, if her results continue, she will imprint that image of her long ponytail and visor into the memory of American tennis fans for a long time to come.