updated 02/28/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/28/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

Don't ask Carling Bassett what she'll do when she grows up. She's doing it now. At 15, the lean and leggy Toronto-born blonde is currently the youngest player in women's pro tennis. Having won a slew of junior tournaments, including the prestigious Orange Bowl, and ranking No. 1 among women in Canada, she joined the Women's Tennis Association circuit last month. Indeed, she quickly proved that she belonged. After straining to beat her 6-3, 7-5 in the Washington Virginia Slims, then 10th-ranked Sylvia Hanika, 23, said that Bassett played "like she was 25, with 10 tournaments behind her."

Carling also has another budding career. She has just debuted in the movie Spring Fever, playing a young tennis hopeful dominated by a poor, driving mother. In Carling's case, the film hardly imitates life. Her mom, Sue, a great-great-great-granddaughter of the founder of Canada's Carling breweries, is a pleasant and protective sort who wouldn't let her offspring turn pro until the teenager was "ready, mentally and physically." Carling's dad, former Canadian Davis Cupper John Bassett, is a real estate and sports magnate whose interests include the new U.S. Football League's Tampa Bay Bandits—and Spring Fever, which he produced.

Carling took up tennis at 9. Two years later her parents sent her to Nick Bollettieri's rigorous (no weekday TV or junk food) live-in tennis camp, now in Bradenton, Fla. There she studies by correspondence course while practicing seven hours a day. At first Bollettieri had doubts about her attention span and drive. No longer. Today, he says, "She's very open and has very little fear"—signs of a great player, he thinks. In competition, he adds, "She's more than vicious. She's way ahead of most people."

"Car," as pals call her, isn't so sure: "I really haven't made it yet. I've got to go further." As for choosing between cinema and the circuit, however, she has no doubts. "I like them both, but I'm an action person. On the court you have only one chance. You do it right or you lose."

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