Florida is where the United States manufactures its élite tennis players. Other countries have their national-federation training centers, of course; America’s is in Orlando. The state has year-round tennis weather, and it has become the home of the big-name coaches, the camps and academies, and all the best young players for an aspiring phenom to compete against. The parents of these kids—who, often enough, are athletes of some sort themselves—frequently uproot their families to move here, homeschooling their would-be prodigies during the few hours a day that they are not on a tennis court. Ten- and twelve- and fourteen-year-olds get evaluated like yearlings on a Kentucky horse farm. They either turn into world-class players or, more often than not, they stall, get injured, or burn out. It’s an expensive process, and it’s neither as pretty nor as clean as the ground strokes that fans gather to ooh and ah at the big tournaments. The talk of the latest big tournament, the Miami Open, as it got under way last week was a story in the Sun-Sentinel about Naomi Osaka’s South Florida years, when she was one of these tennis kids. It is the story of a mother, Tamaki Osaka, working… Read full this story
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