NEW YORK - Sitting with legs crossed during a changeover, Lindsay Davenport waved off the ball girl offering water, saying: "No, thanks. I'm okay."
Is she ever.
The fifth-seeded Davenport stretched her winning streak to 18 matches by beating Lubomira Kurhajcova of Slovakia 6-4, 6-0 Tuesday in the first round.
Just two months ago, the 28-year-old Davenport was talking about retiring after this season. When she lost to Maria Sharapova in the Wimbledon semifinals, Davenport said it probably would be her final appearance at the All England Club.
What a mistake that would be, given her recent form. Davenport has won her past four tournaments, all played on hardcourts just like the Open.
"Maybe that took some pressure off me, just to think: "Oh, who cares what happens now,' " said Davenport, who built a 36-7 edge in winners and needed just 50 minutes to beat Kurhajcova. "Going to see how I feel in November and take it from there."
Asked if she could imagine not being at the 2005 U.S. Open, Davenport said: "Some days, yes."
Her first Grand Slam trophy came at the 1998 U.S. Open, and she added titles at Wimbledon in 1999 and the Australian Open in 2000, along with a stint at No. 1.
But she's had health problems recently, including operations on her right knee in 2002 and her left foot last year.
"If I play next year, I want to make sure that I'm committed for the year and that I can play through the good times and the bad times and be mentally strong all year," she said. "I'm going to have to really see if I can do that."
BAD BREAK: Ivan Ljubicic quit during his first-round match with what could best be called a bad break. The Olympic doubles bronze medalist, seeded 24th at the Open, had to stop at 1-1 in the third set against Lee Hyung-taik because a broken rib hurt too much. How did Ljubicic get injured? A pal wrapped his arms around Ljubicic to crack his back - and squeezed too hard.
It happened Thursday, and the Croatian got an MRI exam Friday. "They said it's a little, tiny fracture," said Ljubicic, who won the first set against Lee 6-3, then lost the second by the same score. "The doctor said it wouldn't get worse by playing."
After one set Tuesday, though, "The pain was unsupportable," Ljubicic said. He still might give it a shot in doubles at the Open with Mario Ancic, his partner at the Athens Games.
Asked who was responsible for trying to help but instead hurting him, Ljubicic said: "I don't think it's right to say his name. He's not really guilty."
PLAYING IN PAIN: Paul Goldstein couldn't believe his luck. Just 11/2 hours after qualifying for the U.S. Open on Friday, he went out to play in the World Team Tennis semifinals - and exactly three points in, he sprained his left ankle.
With treatment, including acupuncture, Goldstein felt healthy enough to play his first Grand Slam match in three years, and he beat Takao Suzuki of Japan 7-6 (7-5), 2-6, 6-2, 6-1.
"I wasn't kicking myself for playing World Team Tennis," Goldstein said, "but I was discouraged about the timing."
GOODBYE, TOWELS: Fans watching the tournament may catch a glimpse of staff driving small Zamboni-like contraptions vacuuming pesky rainwater off the courts.
The court-drying machines - which replace the system of hand-pushed squeegees, blowers and towels the USTA was using - were made by Golden Valley sweepermaker Tennant Co. Tennant sold 24 of the specially-configured machines to the USTA in White Plains, N.Y., for about $18,000 a piece and finished shipping them in time for the tournament.