An ardent middle-ranked professional tennis player, Willy Novinsky meets her match in Eric Oberdorf, the handsome rogue she drubs in a pick-up game in Manhattan's Riverside Park. Eric is charmingly gracious in defeat, and his casual confidence takes her in. Low-ranked but untested, Eric, too, aims to make his mark on the international tennis circuit. Willy beholds compatibility spiced with friendly rivalry, and discovers her first passion outside a tennis court. They marry.
Conjugal life starts well on the Upper West Side of New York. But animated shop talk and blissful love-making soon give way to full-tilt competition over who can rise to the top first. Driven and gifted, Willy maintains the lead until she severs her knee ligaments in a devastating spill. As Willy recuperates, her ranking plummets just as her husband becomes the upstart darling of the tennis circuit. Ultimately Eric plays in the U.S. Open. Anguished at falling short of her lifelong dream and resentful of her husband's success, Willy slides irresistibly toward the first quiet tragedy of her young life.