| 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.