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Always it was something. At one tournament her eyes bothered her, and she had to take out her contact lenses, which left her almost blind. On another occasion, after winning a match, she suddenly felt as if she couldn't breathe, and she collapsed. A bystander gave her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. In Miami she suffered leg cramps and was rushed to the hospital. The doctors phoned her parents for permission to administer revitalizing injections. In the background Marilyn could hear Lori yelling, "Not in my tennis arm."
People started gossiping. In Mission Viejo, Calif., Lori got sick and threw up all over her rackets. In Dallas, playing in blistering heat, she fainted. An ambulance was called. Lori was adamant about not going to the hospital. Tournament officials insisted. Lori became hysterical. She couldn't stand losing. She couldn't stand getting sick. She couldn't stand people talking about her.
In Chattanooga, facing a state rival, Lori began hallucinating. She thought she was at Wimbledon. Watching her sister suffer, Julie burst into tears. But no one said quit. Lori won the match. Winners don't quit. Quitters don't win.
"If I did win a tournament, I'd be happy for a day," says Lori, "but then it would start all over. It made me so mad because I couldn't stand the people talking like I was nuts or something. I felt abandoned."
At Bollettieri's, the competition was intense, and all the students were affected by it. One of the stars, another young girl, who's now on the pro tour, became more and more manic. She was running a low-grade fever and complained that the instructors didn't work her enough. Suddenly she would dash outside and start skipping rope furiously. One afternoon she picked up 10 rackets and threw them out the door. Lori asked why. "I told them," the girl shrieked, "to string them at 80 [pounds], not 70." Finally, the girl started experiencing what must have been delusions of grandeur. She said to another student, "Get out of here. You're not good enough to be in the same room with me."
About this time Herb told Marilyn to take down a plaque that was hanging in the kitchen. On it were inscribed the words attributed to Vince Lombardi: WINNING ISN'T EVERYTHING; IT'S THE ONLY THING.
"Why take it down?" Marilyn asked.
"Because Lori has read it enough," replied Herb. Bollettieri, too, sensed Lori's deterioration. "Lori definitely had the physical equipment to be a top pro," he says. "But she had always felt so much pressure to win that she got to the point where she couldn't cope with losses to girls she had beaten. When she couldn't adjust the bottom fell out." One day Bollettieri told Lori that being No. 1 wasn't the most important thing in the world. Lori was horrified by such blasphemy. "If I couldn't become number one," she said, "I wouldn't want to play." Then she walked away.
"I couldn't figure out what was happening," says Lori. "I knew I had the talent. Tennis meant everything because I always wanted to be different, not just a school kid. Maybe it would have helped not to be so good. I had so much so young. Seven years old, and they were already making me into something. Then I took the fall I never expected."
By the time she began her second stint at Bollettieri's, Lori's star had begun to wane. She was 15 and was coming off a No. 3 national ranking in the 14s, a disappointment. More and more good players were enrolling at the academy. "It hurt so bad," says Lori. "It bothered me when the press would interview kids and I wouldn't be the one." Some students teased her. "Oh Lori," they would say, thumbing through old tennis books, "did you win the Orange Bowl?"