For a sport founded on upper-class convention, replete with 19th-century Londoners leaping across pristine lawns in long white pants, tennis has been molded by rogues, eccentrics and non-conformists. Its history would be as stodgy as four o'clock tea without its relentless plunges into the improbable. If you see a bleak immediate future for American tennis, I'd suggest a measure of patience. The next miracle cannot be too far away.
As much as we all enjoy the sight of pure, fundamental coaching in a stress-free environment, a remarkable number of great players chose their own, singular path, crafting stories from the realm of fantasy. Without such radical departure, they would have dropped off the map -- or, at best, become part of the dullish mainstream. Miracles, I tell you. They are the essence of the tennis and its popularity. Refreshingly, they tend to be based on vital human qualities: