Playing on grass is growing on surging 7th seed Davenport WIMBLEDON


WIMBLEDON, England -- America's top women's player is learning to love Wimbledon's grass courts.

"If you hit a good shot, you're rewarded," Lindsay Davenport said. "I'm getting used to these courts."

Yesterday, No. 7 Davenport led the parade of women's seeds into the third round when she defeated Florencia Labat, 6-1, 6-1.

With two impressive victories -- she defeated Gigi Fernandez in the first round -- Davenport is lurking in the top of the draw as a possible challenger for the title.

"Realistically, I don't know what my chances are," she said. "I'm still getting used to the grass."

Graf almost back in form

Steffi Graf may have a back problem, but that hasn't stopped her from making her usual rampage through Wimbledon's early rounds.

Yesterday, the No. 1 seed defeated Amanda Coetzer, 6-3, 7-5.

"The back problems are something I've been living with for eight or nine months," Graf said. "Sometimes it comes, sometimes it doesn't. It doesn't tell me before. One step can hurt a bit, and the back can stiffen up."

Graf also publicly apologized for pulling out of the doubles with Martina Navratilova.

"I don't know how much I can say I'm sorry for it," Graf said. "I wish I wouldn't have had to withdraw, but there was no other way."

Fourth seed Jana Novotna, No. 6 Kimiko Date, No. 10 Natalia Zvereva and No. 13 Mary Joe Fernandez all advanced into the third round.

But Novotna's 6-2, 6-2 victory over Britain's Jo Durie left the British crowd deflated. This was Durie's farewell to Wimbledon. And she left Court 1 in tears.

"I felt full of joy," Durie said. "I wish the match could have gone on forever."

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