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They also put down fears, insecurities and observations to which not even King or Mayotte's companion, Cathy Barnett, are privy. "It's about emotional confrontation," King says. Navratilova crouches protectively over her book when she writes in it. Only Kardon, a close friend with eyes that invite confidences, is allowed to see her entries. But he doesn't get to read as much as he may think. She writes her most private observations elsewhere.
All of this is in keeping with King's conviction that tennis is not merely a game but a blueprint for constructive living. In her symbiotic, ordered view of the world, tennis is about fortitude-facing up to things—and the value of a good effort for its own sake. To her mind, the sport should be properly executed, pleasing to the eye and emotionally and intellectually gratifying.
"It's about learning your craft," she says. "That's a wonderful thing—especially with today's consumerism and instant gratification. You can't buy that. It's about making decisions, corrections, choices. I don't think it's so much about becoming a tennis player. It's about becoming a person."
Even if it's not, chances are that King, with her confidence and charisma, will convince you that it is. "I was mesmerized by her at 17, and I still am today," says Navratilova. She and Mayotte watch and listen raptly as King's hands carve expressive trails through the air, describing arcs and paths to open places in the court that hadn't occurred to them. King clearly loves the art of tennis. "It's my passion," she says.
She cannot stand to see tennis played badly or, worse, joylessly. "You have to see this to understand how she made me love the game again," Navratilova says.
Mayotte and King stand in a corner talking. "How do you get away from the idea," he says intently, "that when you lose a match it's because you're a bad person?"
King sighs and drops her chin to her chest. "You're killing me today, you know that?" she says. "You're really killing me."
She sighs again. "Look," she says, "you're a great person."
Mayotte says later, "She's always very clear on that."
In March 1990, King was walking through the lunch tent at the Lipton International Players Championship in Key Biscayne, Fla., when Mayotte's vaguely familiar form stepped into her path. He had a crease in his forehead, a "funny look," King recalls.