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A Game Apart by Randy H. Milgrom

A Game Apart

Story by Randy H. Milgrom
The sprawling tennis complex is set just apart from the stadium, and the courts are placed barely within eyesight of the track. The small crowds that line each court are grouped and nearly hidden behind the complex's elegant buildings and intriguing archways.

The ground strokes are fierce and sure; the baseline moves swift and pure.

Yet in this quiet corner of the Games, matches feature a compelling mixture of speed and power. On each lined court, combatants focus on nothing but their opponent, the ball, and a strategy that keeps one as far from the other as possible. The ground strokes are fierce and sure; the baseline moves swift and pure. In an odd exchange of brutality and elegance, spittle flies as players grunt, and spectators - passively riveted - offer occasional, heartfelt applause. Their heads, in unison, follow the ball: back and forth, back and forth, back. All the while, Centre Court looms above, awaiting the worthy finalists.

In this isolated near-silence, the most intense competition of the 2000 National Transplant Games ensues.

Carl Lewis is across the way at the track. Sean Elliot, Oscar Robertson, and Stephon Marbury are conducting a basketball skills clinic at the fieldhouse. But there are no celebrities at the tennis site, other than the athletes themselves.. On court after court, players steer each other down, hit fast serves, and return twisting volleys. And the race to the net is on.

A short walk from these aggressive forays, Sandy Webster, 38, of Team Hawaii, finds a shady spot under an awning placed on the spacious, manicured lawns. She's full of warmth and charm. She's awaiting her 4:15 finals match, but she's not talking about that. She's talking about the joy of tennis.

Sandy played by herself, endlessly, as a ten year old, and kept at it through both high school and college. She's played tennis in the National Transplant Games every year since 1994. And she met her husband, Chris, at a tennis camp. Chris, who "was thrilled," says Sandy - "he didn't even hesitate" - to donate his kidney when she needed it to stay alive in 1995. It joined the kidney she received in 1977 from her father, Ernst Kuthe.

Sandy and her family just moved from Michigan to Hawaii, which fulfilled a lifelong dream. The tennis competition was shut down due to inclement weather this afternoon, placing Sandy's final match in jeopardy. But who cared? In the peace and grandeur of these immaculate lawns, Sandy felt glad to be alive.

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