China's Aspiring Aces

For Zheng Jie, it all came down to the nifty clothes. A lot of youngsters fall in love with tennis because of the exhilaration of a perfect ace or the thrilling geometry of a well-placed volley. But when Zheng was growing up in China's rural Sichuan province, she knew little about the game. The coaches who approached her in 1990, when she was seven years old, had to explain that tennis was like ping-pong, only with a bigger, fuzzier ball. Still, there were advantages to playing this strange sport. "Because my teammates and I were among the first people to play...

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