Davenport: Pliskova the favourite at Wimbledon
Davenport laments American's absence but tips Pliskova to step up and shine at Wimbledon
Women's tennis will miss Serena Williams as she takes time out to give birth to her first child.
But there are other stars who can pick up the mantle and fill the void left behind by arguably the greatest women's athlete the world has even seen, says three-time Grand Slam champion Lindsay Davenport.
In a teleconference with local media yesterday after her unveiling as an ambassador for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore, presented by SC Global this October, Davenport said that the show must go on without the 23-time Grand Slam champion.
"The landscape of women's tennis is changing so much and there are so many new names and veteran names," said former world No. 1 Davenport, who won the US Open (1988), Wimbledon (1999) and the Australian Open (2000).
"Everyone wants Serena back, the fans, even the players themselves - that shows how much she's missed.
"I couldn't be more proud and supportive of the message she's sending (in her absence), about being a woman and achieving all your dreams.
"But there are a lot of other stars on the rise, and the sport must go on without her."
Asked which player can step up and replace Williams as Wimbledon champion this year, the 41-year-old Davenport singled out world No. 3 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic.
"Pliskova has a great game that's well-suited for (Wimbledon's) grasscourts, which is for more offensive-minded players," said Davenport.
Pliskova has a great game that's well-suited for (Wimbledon's) grasscourts, which is for more offensive-minded players.Former world No. 1 Lindsay Davenport
"She has one of the best serves, and she can hit the ball hard (while keeping) it flat."
The 25-year-old Pliskova was taking on Slovakia's Magdalena Rybarikova in the third round at press time.
It is anyone's guess if Williams will rediscover her swashbuckling best when she returns to the sport, but Davenport believes that there are other players who can light up women's tennis.
"We have so many amazing comeback stories - I would never count out Maria (Sharapova) and Victoria (Azarenka, who's just returned after childbirth)," said the former Olympic gold medallist.
"It's going to be exciting to follow their stories as they return.
"(There's also) the next generation - Elina Svitolina and her progress through the years; Jelena Ostapenko and her fearless attitude (in her French Open triumph) that was so awesome to watch."
But nobody can replace the legacy left behind by the 35-year-old Williams, according to Davenport.
Williams holds the most Grand Slam titles (39) among the active players in singles, doubles and mixed doubles.
Her 16 Grand Slam singles titles in the last decade are also unrivalled, with Sharapova and Kim Clijsters joint-second with just three each.
Current world No. 1 Angelique Kerber, who won two Grand Slam titles last year, has struggled with inconsistent form this year.
Said Davenport: "There's only going to be one Serena.
"You're lucky when you have just one player in a generation who can transcend the sport."