MELBOURNE:She might be a 31-year-old mother and considered past her prime by some, but Lindsay Davenport shapes as a dangerous floater at the Australian Open.
The former world number one, who won here in 2000, was expected to retire after 11 months off to have a baby, but she is back, and with a vengeance.
Since returning to competitive tennis in September following the birth of her son, Jagger, Davenport has won 18 of 19 matches and three of four tournaments to extend her career total to 54 WTA titles.
Along the way she has disposed of Jelena Jankovic, the world three, and Daniela Hantuchova, the world number nine, proving that she still has what it takes.
Davenport said she didn't plan to return to competition after starting a family. But she admitted she began to feel the urge to play just weeks after giving birth in June.
The strength of her comeback has been a revelation, and her confidence is high as she heads to the first Grand Slam of the year with her sights on at least a quarter-final showing.
"I started off playing a few of the smaller tournaments, tier threes and fours, and it's astonished me," she said after winning the Auckland Classic this month.
"I didn't think my body would bounce back as fast as it has after giving birth, and the strain of pregnancy, so I'm excited now about going to the huge stage of the Australian Open and seeing what can happen."
Given she is now ranked 52 in the world and will be unseeded in Melbourne, the three-time Grand Slam winner will be hoping for a favourable draw, knowing the real test of where she is at lies ahead.
"Sitting here now, I would be really excited to get to the quarter-finals," she said.
"I don't know the level of the top few girls and don't know exactly where I am compared with them. But I feel like I'm better than a lot of the girls out there and I'd like the opportunity to show that."
There were "probably about five" opponents Davenport wanted to avoid first up, including world number one Justine Henin and the Williams sisters, Venus and defending champion Serena.
"Having said that, they're more vulnerable in the first round," she said.
"But I definitely see myself as the biggest floater in the draw. I'm sure no one would be excited to get me in the first round as well. Hopefully, I'll get to work my way into the tournament."
Since returning to tennis, Davenport has won in Bali, Quebec, and Auckland and made the semi-finals in Beijing.
She has reached the third round at least in all 13 Australian Open campaigns she has contested since 1993, making the quarter-finals or better nine times.
Davenport also has won 36 doubles titles .