BOSTON -- Barbara Potter is facing the wall of the Charles River Park tennis club, stepping sideways, foot-over-foot, her eyes staring straight at the wall.
One look at Potter practicing her footwork shows why many consider her the most dedicated player on the women's tennis tour. She amazes onlookers with her determination and ability to get the most from her abilities.
A native of Waterbury, Conn., Potter is the No. 5 seed in the $150,000 women's pro tournament being played this week at Boston University.
Potter, who is the only local player in the tournament, has usually lost to lesser players, but this year she says she is more in command.
'Now I'm just trying to have a good time and keep a clear mind,' said the left-hander. 'I hope people who know me in Boston can see that. I had a low in Australia in December and since then I've just been trying to enjoy myself out on the court.'
Since she gained control of her nerves, Potter has had increased success.
'I've discovered that there are a lot of things that are a matter of choice,' Potter said. 'You can choose to be nervous or not. I think the fear of being nervous is greater than the nerves themselves, really.'
She first appeared with a No. 79 ranking on the ATP computer in February 1978, was at 62 by December, then each of the following years moved up to 47, then 25, then 10. The highlight of her career was winning the U.S. Indoors in 1982.
Though she is currently ranked 12th in the world, Potter sees much room for improvement. 'There are a lot of technical things I could improve on, like fitness, footwork and balance, but the biggest thing is mental. I have to work on sustaining a high level of concentration.
'My game, offensively, is as good as it has to be to make the top in women's tennis. The question for me is not that, but consistency.'
And Potter believes that consistency will come with time and hard work. She has delayed her enrollment at Princeton University so she can be completely dedicated to the sport.
'Sometimes I think about some of the things I've missed in a normal lifestyle, like the college scene, but I have no regrets for what I did,' she said. 'I've learned a lot about myself.'
But Potter does not intend tennis to be her whole life. She has seen other players age, others who have stayed on because they had nothing else to move on to. She doesn't want that to happen to her.
'I don't want to still be out here when I'm 35,' she said.