I began pondering my retirement from professional tennis Thursday.
This was a few minutes after I began exploring the possibility of becoming a professional tennis player.
The epiphany, and subsequent doubts, came after a lesson with two greats of the women's game, Lindsay Davenport and Tracy Austin, who were taking time to promote a wrinkle-reducing skin gel called Juvederm.
Austin, 45, and Davenport, 32 and in the midst of a comeback, have five Grand Slam titles between them.
During our little lesson, Austin instructed me to start my backhand swing lower and relax my shoulder as I serve. Davenport had only positive words for me as I drilled through some volleys.
Suddenly, the notion of becoming a bottom-feeding tennis pro didn't seem so far off. Maybe I'd become good enough to get out of the first round of fifth-tier events occasionally.
After the clinic, I described my plan to Davenport and Austin, each of whom once left the game they love and then thought better of it -- twice in Austin's case.
"You decided? Today?" said Austin, who is now a color commentator for BBC and USA. "I think two years and four months, you could make it."
The champions were chuckling. "I'd probably say closer to three years," Davenport offered. "Two years and 10 months."
"But you're going to have to give up your job," Austin told me plaintively. "You're going to have to train eight hours a day."
"That's okay," I replied. "I don't even like my job."
There was some more laughter, and then I broke the news. "I might be pondering retirement," I said.
"If you're thinking about retirement before you made a decision," Austin said, "that might be premature."
"That's probably not a good start," added Davenport, who left tennis to raise a family but returned last year. She said she was looking forward to "the most fun summer of my life," competing in Wimbledon, the Olympics and the U.S. Open. She left for England Thursday night.
But there is a one-year-old son in her life now.
"You have no idea when that day'll hit you, when you're like, 'I am done for sure,' " Davenport said.
It struck then that each woman made tremendous sacrifices to rise to the top of their sport.