Al Austin shuffled one recent Saturday morning onto the green-gray clay of the tennis courts at the Tampa Yacht and Country Club. The 83-year-old wore a floppy white sun hat and boxy black sunglasses, and braces on his elbow, knee and wrist. He hadn’t slept much. He coughed an angry, chesty cough and grimaced.
“I feel terrible,” he said to one of his playing partners, who’s also his doctor. Austin pulled a crinkled tissue from a pocket of his shorts in between some practice shots.
“I’m ready,” he announced.
He stood at the back of the court in some momentary shade.
The first serve of the set spun toward the man most responsible for bringing the Republican National Convention to Tampa.