Winning is like getting in a car accident. You can't totally imagine it until you've done it yourself.
When people say I'm an overnight success, I want to shred them.
My mother will be polishing my manners until I'm 90. There's no way around it. It's simple motherdom.
If someone offers me a lot of money to do something, and it can be worked into my schedule so it doesn't interfere with my practice and my rest, and it is something that contributes to my hopefully classy image as a tennis player, then I'll do it. I won't do pimple cream.
For somebody who's fairly together in life, which I am, I'm very untogether when it comes to having the right color headband to go with a particular outfit. Sometimes I'm just a klutz.
If you have guessed that the speaker isn't John McEnroe, you're correct. The voice is a new one in tennis circles—well, not exactly new, but newly attended to. There is nothing like winning for getting folks to listen to you, and Barbara Potter, at 20, is now a bona fide winner. In January, Potter cleared that most formidable hurdle in a young player's education—she won her first grown-up tournament, the $150,000 Avon Championships of Cincinnati. As for the other four Avon events she has entered this year, her record is: semis, semis, finals, quarters. Until last week in Oakland, where she lost to Andrea Jaeger, the only player who had beaten her in 1982 was Martina Navratilova, and she hasn't lost to anybody this year. Potter's victims include Jaeger, Bettina Bunge (twice), Billie Jean King and Kathy Rinaldi. For her play in 1981, when she made a respectable semifinal showing against Tracy Austin at the U.S. Open and leaped from 26th to eighth in the world, she was named Tennis magazine's most improved woman player of the year. No wonder a good many people want to know what Potter has on her mind.
Fortunately, she has a lot. In fact, she seems to have been storing up her thoughts for just such a moment, so that they now come tumbling out, sometimes tripping over each other in the rush to become words.
"It's interesting that these girls mature so thoroughly on the court and as travelers and as worldly-wise people by the age of 15, 16," says Potter. "At 17 they are old women in several ways. And yet, not really, because if you put them in a different situation, anything off their beaten track, they'd probably come up with gaping holes in their development. Some of them may never catch up, and that's sad, because to survive after tennis they have to have a certain understanding of how real life works, of day-in and day-out jobs, of fending for yourself. An income of $200 a week, not $2,000 a week, is really what life is about."
Barbara Potter—Barbie to her family, Potsie to her friends older and younger than her years—resists condensation. She is the daughter of an artist, the granddaughter of a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaperman and the product of a conservative New England prep school and an upbringing that placed a higher value on culture than on wealth.
Were it not for tennis, she would be a junior at Princeton, where she was accepted in 1978, the year she graduated in the top 10% of her class from the Taft School in Watertown, Conn. Instead, she is one of a roving band of professional athletes, being paid, very well, to pursue an obsession in public. After three years on her chosen path she says, "It is as worthy a process as any other in life."