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The family fences have been patched now, if not entirely mended. With Martina's financial assistance, her parents have bought a larger house close to the tennis courts in Revnice and, for the first time, a car. Her stepfather has his old job back, and they are free to come and go these days, so they plan to meet Martina in Paris next week at the French.
Meanwhile, Martina mulls over the past and tries to put together a coherent present. "I found out from my mother when she was here that I have a brother somewhere running about," she says. "My real father had a son before he married my mother. And you won't believe how I found out. I went to a psychic. He told me, 'You have a sister,' and he told me about my parents, and he said, 'You were close to your grandmother.' He was right about everything. Then he said, 'You have a brother, too, don't you?' I said, 'No, I don't.' But he kept up about that. I said, 'Well, my mother had a miscarriage, it could have been that.' So, I told my mother how funny it was that this guy kept insisting I had a brother. A psychic, ha, ha, ha. Well, my mother says, 'You do have a brother, don't you know? Didn't I tell you that?' I said, 'No, Mama, I think I would remember that.' So I have a half brother and I don't know his name. I don't know how old he is. I don't know what he looks like. We have different names. Chances are he doesn't know I am his sister." She shrugs as if to say it hardly matters, but her telltale hazel eyes look bruised.
"Some people are better exiles than others," says Casals. "Martina was definitely a good one. She's a survivor."
Of course, surviving as No. 1 is the test of any champion, and Martina failed the first time around. "It's a real mental situation after a while, being No. 1," says Casals. "Chris will tell you, it's not fun when people start gunning for you. I think that for the last two years the intensity has been gone for Martina. But now she's playing the best tennis I've ever seen her play. Now she knows what it takes."
She also has made peace with some of the devils that used to pursue her. The tennis audiences that once resisted accept her now. Sometimes, as at the U.S. Open last year, they even love her. The press has ceased to hound her about her personal life, for the time being at least, and she seems to have adopted a position in regard to the media that compromises neither her idea of her right to privacy nor her innate honesty. But when Brown's next novel appears—it concerns a woman in her thirties who falls in love with a young woman on the tennis tour—Martina surely will be tested again.
Acceptance has always come slowly to her. She was different. She didn't fit in familiar niches. And she was incapable of calculated charm, of setting out to make people like her. She could only hope that sooner or later tennis fans and the press would take her as she is. Now all that remains to be conquered are the devils on the inside, the ones that have so often grabbed Martina around the heart, just when she most needed to be fearless, and squeezed until even her magnificent talent was no longer equal to the job at hand.
"I have no explanation for why it happens sometimes and not others," she says. "But I think I have the answer for avoiding it and that's to hit out more when the pressure is on. Rod Laver said that's what he did. Now I think I'm able to ward off the panic. I think I got over it against Jaeger at Hilton Head. I was missing a lot of forehands, so I started putting more spin on the ball. The topspin was bouncing higher and the slice was bouncing lower, and I never made another error. I'm so excited. I really am. Nothing like that ever happened to me on a tennis court."
She leaned back in a chair, not her own, in a house, not her own, in a country, not quite her own, and for a moment looked as if she owned the world. "Arrogance to panic," she said with a chuckle. "That's a great line. You won't see me go from arrogance to panic with nothing in between anymore. I know there's still a place for me in the history of tennis. It's not too late."