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Instead of running high-kneed back to the baseline to keep loose and responsive, she found herself walking with a slight limp.I should’ve taken some Advil when I had the chance, she thought as she accepted two balls from a teenage ball boy. We carry good-luck charms and talismans and offer prayers and chant mantras and every other crazy thing to help convince whoever’s listening that if only, please, just this once, we could win this lone point/game/set/match/tournament, it would really be so great and soooo appreciated. The anger coursed through her body and went straight to the ball, which she hit at least two feet past the baseline, and just like that, she had lost the first game of the second set. In an instant it was 6–5 in the second set and Charlie had to secure only one more game to win it. Alice’s first serve was high on spin but low on speed and Charlie jumped all over it. Her next one was much harder and flatter, and Charlie smashed that one straight down the line. It was so damn loud the entire stadium must have heard that awful popping sound, but on the off chance they missed it, Charlie’s scream caught their attention.“Just need a minute to get myself together.” She knew she had to pull herself up and get back into position. She made it upright and was able to glance around her, to take in Alice’s barely detectable smile and the umpire’s careful observation of the televised match clock, ready to pounce the moment the time-out was over.

Charlie had to will herself to cinch the laces tight and knot them, and the moment she did so, the chair umpire called time.

Hell, I should have had the right shoes in the first place. That was all it took to open the floodgates of anger and, worse, distraction. Charlie’s first serve was powerful and well placed, but again she was flat-footed and unprepared for Alice’s return. Charlie glanced toward her box and saw Marcy, her father, and her brother, Jake. Silver caught her looking, he broke into a reflexive smile, but Charlie could see his concern from where she was standing on the baseline. Charlie won the next game and then the game after that. They rallied back and forth a few shots on the next point before Alice dropped one just over the net. She hit the ground hard, like a kid falling from a top bunk.

Why on earth couldn’t anyone have predicted that her shoes would be deemed inadmissible? It’s not like they’d never outfitted Wimbledon players before. She switched sides, offered a weaker-than-usual serve, and stood dumbly still as Alice blazed a forehand winner right past her. She got to the ball but wasn’t able to steady her stance enough to clear the net. Was she seriously expected to wear someone else’s shoes during her first match on Centre Court, the biggest, most intimidating stage on which she’d ever played? She and her team spent hours selecting and fitting new sneakers when it was time for a change, but hey, here, just wear this random pair. The next several games were over in a flash, with Charlie only managing to hold on to one. The infinitely polite British crowd was downright raucous by their standards, with light clapping and even the occasional cheer. Once again she settled down, forced her mind to think of nothing but stroking the ball and winning the point. Charlie read it early and set her body in motion, running as fast as her legs would take her toward the net, her racket outstretched already and her entire upper half bent forward. She was almost there, literally within inches of connecting the very top part of her racket head to the ball, only needing to give it a little tap to get it back over the net, when her right foot—feeling like it had a five-pound bag of flour attached to it—slid out from under her like a ski. Every millimeter of her body hurt so much it was nearly impossible to ascertain where the awful popping sound had originated.

On both sides were enormous glossy black-and-white photos of tennis legends who had emerged victorious from Centre Court: Serena Williams, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova, Andy Murray. Alice was glancing from side to side, too, as they walked toward the door that would take them onto Centre and thrust them onstage.

Poole through the tunnel that led to the most storied tennis court in the world.