Now nothing is working, her serve has gone limp, her movement is sluggish. As the games tick away panic clouds her judgment. She tries to make every serve an ace, every groundstroke a winner, most miss and the sense of panic rises, a self-defeating loop.
January, Australian Open, Melbourne:
Practice courts crowd early. Her favorite is Court 15, third in a cluster of four backed by a row of eucalyptus trees. Before noon stifling heat radiates up from the blue court. After noon the trees cast confounding globular shadows, every shot requires heightened concentration. The Wednesday before the tournament the number-one men’s seed practices on Court 16. Between her rallies she watches with reverence the beautiful ease of his backhand as he strikes ball after ball after ball.
Each night she, father, coach repair to the patio of a small seafood restaurant three blocks from Port Phillip, close enough to the bay for the pungent …