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Top seed in Tualatin Hills tennis tourney already has U.S. Open spot

Bill Davis is a cardiologist in Cleveland. Ex-wife Traci is a nurse. Their daughter, Lauren, intends to follow suit. Right?

"Nope," says Lauren, who turns 20 in October. "I never had too much of an interest in anything that had to do with the medical field."

So Lauren turned to tennis -- a rather good idea, the way things have turned out.

Davis has gone from child prodigy to the No. 86 ranking in the Women's Tennis Association, and she will be the No. 1 seed in next week's $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit Women's Challenger at Tualatin Hills Tennis Center. Attendance is free to the public.

Qualifying begins Sunday, with the 32-player main draw beginning Tuesday. The champion gains automatic entry into the U.S. Open later in the summer.

DAVISDavis doesn't require any help in that regard. Based off her top-100 ranking, she is already ticketed for entry at Flushing Meadows.

"I just need a lot of matches right now," Davis says via phone from the Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, Fla., her home for the past 3 1/2 years. "I'll play a couple of challengers before the Open. I'll play Lexington (Ky.) the following week, depending on how I do in Portland."

Davis left her home in suburban Cleveland at age 16 to train year-round at the Evert Academy.

"It has been an incredible experience," she says. "It's like my home away from home. I really love it.

The first six months, I got pretty homesick. But my aunt, uncle and three cousins live in Fort Lauderdale, and that helped. I consider this home now. I don't get homesick any more."

Of course, Davis hasn't been in Boca Raton all that often, either. She is back in the States after a two-month tour of Europe, where she played both the French Open and Wimbledon.

Traveling with her has been her coach of the past two years, Carlos Zapata, a full-time employee at Evert Academy.

"He has been amazing to work with," Davis says. "We have good chemistry. He can take me very far."

Since turning pro at the 2011 Australian Open at 17, Davis has played in the main draw of all the majors. She lost 7-6, 6-3 in the first round of the U.S. Open that year to Angelique Kerber, now ranked ninth in the world. Davis made it to the second round at the French Open last year but otherwise has been ousted in the first round in all her majors appearances.

After first taking lessons at age 8, Davis quit her other sports -- soccer, track and field, basketball and softball -- and dedicated herself to tennis. She was one of the top juniors in the nation in the late 2000s, earning a No. 1 singles rankings in girls 14, girls 16 and girls 18s while winning several international junior events.

Davis considered college tennis, looking seriously at Notre Dame and Florida, "but this is what I love to do," she says. "I believe I can be very successful."

Already has been. She has nearly $180,000 in earnings to date this year and has amassed a total of almost $350,000 in prize money over her first 2 1/2 years on the tour.

Davis began the season by reaching the quarterfinals before losing in three sets to another top American, Sloan Stephens (ranked No. 17 in the world), at the $235,000 Hobart International Tournament in Australia. In February, Davis won her first $100,000 event at Midland, Mich.

"I've had my ups and downs this year," says Davis, who reached a high of No. 63 in the world. "I have a lot to improve on. I'm determined to do even better."

The 5-2, 120-pound Davis is an aggressive baseliner who covers the court well with her quickness. The last few weeks she has worked hard on her serve and her service return. Now she heads to Portland, a region of the country she has never visited.

"I heard it's pretty out there, so I'm looking forward to it," says Davis, whose goal is to improve her ranking to No. 35 by the end of 2013. "I'm excited to work on the things I've been practicing on. I'm going out there to improve my game, have fun and play to win."

Davis will bring a companion -- her grandmother, Rosalie Svete, who lives in Cleveland.

"I love having her around," Davis says. "She keeps me balanced and she's very positive."

The whirlwind lifestyle of a tour pro has its downside.

"To have a boyfriend would be tough, yes," says Davis says. "But I have made friends every tournament I go to. You meet people who become lifelong friends. I wouldn't have it any other way."

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