"I've gotten a million letters from kids who are dedicated," says Hopman. "They all say how willing they are to work, but when they arrive, they usually drift away from the hard part of it." But Bonnie had already learned the rigors of training as a gymnast. "When other youngsters would be eating lunch," says Hopman, "she'd be out serving shopping baskets full of balls."
Gadusek hit so many serves that she developed tendinitis and a bone chip in her right elbow. She had to wear a cast for eight weeks and play lefthanded. She says her stint as a southpaw helped her with her two-handed backhand. While her arm was in a cast, she ran cross-country for Pinellas Park (Fla.) High in 1978. She still holds the school's two-mile record for girls. She even had a contingency plan if her arm didn't return to tennis form. "I think I'll take up golf," she told Sylvia. "If I can't be the best tennis player, I'll be the best golfer."
Gadusek's life has continued to be plagued by injuries. Three and a half years ago she played the round of 16 of the national junior championships with a stress fracture in her left foot. Afterward, she was in a cast for six weeks. At another junior tournament, in Caracas, she tore ligaments in her right ankle. Another six weeks in a cast. She now plays with a knee brace. Her right knee is the only visible part of her that isn't suntanned.
Most top players have their private tennis gurus—Martina Navratilova's is Mike Estep, for instance—and two summers ago Jim Rosenthal joined Gadusek. Though Gadusek dropped Rosenthal as road coach last November, she still calls him for advice and follows the grueling exercise program he designed for her. "Jim pushed me to my limit and sometimes more," says Gadusek. Rosenthal, 41, used to sit at her matches, charting where each shot landed, like the choreographer of a difficult ballet. This function is now performed by Joe Brandi, a Hopman apostle. Hopman doesn't think much of charts, however; he says you can't beat an opponent with statistics.
She has a strong ground game, but as one insider says, "She plays like her mind's in a plaster cast." Her major drawbacks are lack of speed and her inconsistent serve.
Chris Evert Lloyd doesn't think Gadusek will progress much further. She says Gadusek is too injury-prone and loses too often to lower-ranked players. "To be in the top five you have to have something dangerous," says Evert Lloyd. "With Pam Shriver, it's her serve and size. With Martina, it's her strength and aggressiveness. With me, it's my mental makeup and my steadiness. With Bonnie, I don't see any weapon like that. If she did break in, it would be on desire, not talent."
And Gadusek, too, worries about how long she'll survive in the mad tea party of women's tennis. "I don't want to come through the looking glass," she says. "I want to stay in the fantasy world. You're always O.K. there; when you come back into the room, it's boring. There's nothing to dodge and overcome. When Alice came back, she wasn't the special person everyone had their eyes on anymore. She was Alice in her room, not Alice in Wonderland."