The Tennis Curmudgeon

The Week – Part Eight
September 26, 2013, 12:38 am
Filed under: Tennis, Tennis Curmudgeon, The Tennis Curmudgeon | Tags: , ,

I get in the room and Denise is sleeping, one of her legs is off the bed exposing her bush. I gently cover her with a corner of a blanket.

I grab my bag, which is always next to the bed, and the bag some swag I was given was in, dump the contents on the floor, then head to the bathroom where everything I wore during the ‘Golden Match’ is piled.

I toss the clothes in the swag bag, open my bag taking out the racket and a few balls (at least I hope they were the right ones. Honestly, no matter what the certificate of authenticity says, flamingracketofdoom, tennismadd, and imgonnahitawinner, I picked three balls from the top of the pile and ‘authenticated’ them. Please don’t rat me out, okay?) and toss them in.

I arrive at the front desk and see the time watching, teeth gnashing, wildly pacing Tyler waiting for me. I rush past him holding up the always to be obeyed ‘one second’ finger and head to the desk.

“Can you do me a favor?” I ask the counter girl. “Can you put this bag in a safe or something until I get back?” She takes the bag of dirty clothes and holds it at arms length. “I’ll be back in a couple of hours. Is that all right?”

“Yes.” She says not actually sure if it’s right or not. “I’ll put it in the managers closet. You can ask for it when you get back.”

“Thanks.” I say turning and almost bumping into Tyler. “Whoa.”

“What was that?”

“Just some laundry from this morning’s workout.”

“I can have someone take care of that for you.”

“That’s okay, I find laundry therapeutic. Let’s go. We’ve got a press conference to get to.” We leave the hotel and see Steve standing beside the car. I greet him as he opens the door.

“Is this some shit or what?” He starts to laugh but Tyler barges past so he just winks at me. “You be around to give me a lift back after this thing?”

“We’ll have a driver for you.”

“Can it be Steve?” Tyler assents unwillingly. Like he’s just been driver raped. “Because,” I begin trying to smooth this over. “You know how tennis players can be? He drove me in from the airport and I had such a good match I’d like things to remain the same.” For some asinine reason that makes sense to Tyler.

“Oh, yes, I see.” He checks his watch again. “Can we get going?” Steve begins driving the car into a brave new world for me. “By the way,” Tyler turns to me smiling, more relaxed now that I’m where he needs me. “Do you have any of the stuff your wore or the racket from yesterday?”

“Oh, that stuff. The clothes might still be in the room but I gave the racket to some guy in a bar last night.”

“You gave it to a guy?”

“Yeah, he said he’d give me a free meal and drinks all night for it.” I looked at Tyler staring at stupid old me. “It seemed like a good deal at the time. Who knew about this golden match thing. Is it worth something?” I can read everything Tyler wants to say scroll across the backs of his eyes. None of it is too flattering.

“We were thinking maybe the tennis hall of fame would want it.”

“The one in Rhode Island?” Once again I have given Tyler ample opportunity to think I am a meathead. “Ain’t that something?” I say while thinking, ‘If those fuckers want it bad enough, they can bid on it just like tennisismylife4eva.’

We pull into the facility and it’s a mad house. Tyler jumps into action. He swings the door open, knocking back a sports reporter (which I was lambasted for doing on local talk radio) from the local sports network , and jumps out telling people to give us room, give us room. I catch Steve’s eyes in the rear view mirror.

“Can you just pull out of here?” He smiles.

“You brought this on yourself. You should have let him get a point or something.”

“If I’d known that’s what was happening I would have given him a game.”

“You really didn’t know?”

“No. Did anyone?’

“Some of the people watching thought that’s what they were seeing but it wasn’t until later when the match umpire showed the TD his score sheet that anyone knew.” Steve looks at me askew. “You don’t know any of this, do you?”

“Not a thing. Not until I called a guy back home. I left the, as always, empty press conference, someone drove me to this dive bar on the other side of town, I had some drinks then went to bed.”

“Will you come on!” The seemingly ever exasperated at me Tyler snips.

“Stay right here.” I say to Steve. “I’m going to want a quick getaway.”

“I bet you will.”

The press conference itself was highly anticlimactic. Sports reporting is pretty rote and repetitive. How many different ways can you ask a guy how he felt when he booted or banged a ball? So the same questions get asked daily.

It’s even worse for tennis reporters. At least in a team sport you can make the perfect play only to have someone fuck it up. In tennis it comes down to if the point was won or not. If I won the point I made the right decision. If not, I didn’t. The opponent will have the opposite answer for them.

I doubted this would be any different. Even worse if that’s possible. The questions they’re going to want answers to (“How did it feel?” “What felt different?” When did you know you were making history?” “Where do you think this will take you?” “Why are you crying and balled up under the table?”) I don’t have.

The facts are I played a professional tennis match against an over matched and ill-prepared opponent. I hit winners because I could. I had no plan going in other than the plan I have every day: play as well as I can and don’t beat myself.

One of the most demoralizing things you can do in tennis is make errors. If someone’s bashing in your brains you have no option but to play it to the bitter end. At the end of the match you grin and bear it. But if you’re spraying the ball around like a lawn sprinkler that sticks with you. I’ve seen players fall into the abyss after a soul crushing, error filled match.

I had none of that. I hit balls. He didn’t. I don’t think he made an abundance of errors because he didn’t have the opportunity. I didn’t crush him with ‘winners’ but mostly unforced errors. The ball tied him up more than I pummeled him with winners. I started thinking about the match the moment I found out what happened and that’s the best I can come up with.

It was like the time I was teaching and someone asked me to really hit the ball to them. I begged off but he was insistent and he was, after all, paying me. So we started a rally at his level and after a few I added more pace, more depth, exacting placement. That lead to the inevitable. The ball handcuffed him, kept him off balance. When he’d make contact with the ball it was so heavy he couldn’t do anything with it. It wasn’t long until he was done with this experiment.

Walking into the pressroom was under a long series of undistinguishable questions from everyone we passed. Have you ever been in the middle of a party where everyone is talking until it’s little more than white noise? That’s what it was like.

I might hear a snippet as we passed. A quick, ‘Did you. . .’ but by the third word I was stepping into a ‘Are you. . .’ volley.

It didn’t get much better once I got into the pressroom. Cameras turned and flashed, videos were shot, people snapped questions. The entire time Tyler kept dragging me into my seat. Nothing was going to get in the way of his starting the press conference at exactly 12:10.

Just in time for the local afternoon news.

Sitting at the table with a name placard in front of me I was sure I’d never had this many cameras pointed at me in my entire life much less at one time. Tyler and some well dressed gentleman flanked me. The well dressed guy slide as close to me as chairs would allow. He picked up my hand and started shaking it.

“Congratulations.” He said a few times. “I wish I could have seen it.”

“I wish I could remember it.” I said wondering who he was knowing he had to be a big shot. Probably the tournaments main sponsor. His suit is too good for a tour big shot.

“Are we ready?” Tyler called. A cameraman from Local 5 waved and Tyler nodded. “I’d like to introduce the man who played the golden match at the Mid-State Savings And Loan Classic, Bob Lyle.”

There’s a smattering of applause. I smile and nod. “But before we take questions the Mid-State Savings And Loan president, Schulyer Becks, would like to make a presentation.”

The big shot reaches under the table reflecting light off his bald pate into lunch rooms throughout the mid-state area and pulls out a golden tennis ball on a base.

“Cool. Guys ranked in the two hundreds don’t collect much hardware.” I take the trophy and pose for pictures with the big shot leaning in.

“On behalf of myself and the Mid-State Savings And Loan family I’d like to thank you for creating history at the Mid-State Savings And Loan Classic.”

“Thank you. Is this real gold” If it is I’m going to sell it and finance the rest of my season.” People laugh but someone quickly shouts out a question.

“Chet Garland, channel seven news.”

“You’re the guy who said I was a bad sport.”

“I was just. .. “

“. . .let me get something out of the way right off the bat. You’re an idiot.” I could almost feel Tyler’s ass pucker. Schulyer pats my thigh. I glance at him and he’s trying to kill me with daggers through his smile. I laugh.

“Just kidding, Chet. I liked your piece. To tell you the truth, Chet and everyone, I knew I was kicking his a. . .” Thigh touch again. I guess I’m going to have to keep it clean if I don’t want any more groping.

“Handling my opponent expediently I had no idea he didn’t win a point. Trust me, if I’d know that would lead me here today I would have tanked a set.” My head spins as Tyler steps on my foot.

“No, that’s right, you’re never supposed to tank anything expect, I suppose, a fish. I’ll say I might not have put. . .” Another foot tap. What the fuck is it with these two?

“All right, listen, I went to work yesterday and had a real good day against an opponent who wasn’t as experienced. He seemed like a good guy. Hey, Dougie, let’s grab a beer. It looks like I’ll be here for another day or so. I remember my first handful of matches on the tour, I got my. . .” I stop and self edit before the grabby boys get a chance ply their trade.

“Losses handed to me. You have to get used to winning. I’ve been on the tour for almost a year and this is my first real press conference. Dougie’s on tour for a day and he gets featured on ESPN.”

“When did you learn you had a golden match?”

“This morning on the news.” Tyler jumps in at this point to add,

“We tried to contact him but he was. . .”

“. . .hanging out at the Treetop Tavern.” I waved. “Hi guys! Have a cold one ready for me.”

“You seem a little flippant about this golden match.” Stated a local newspaper reporter looking to dig deep.

“Not at all. It’s just a little surreal. Yesterday I would have had to be raped by a water skiing monkey to get any of you to look at me. But because I went out, did my job and it turned into something no one has ever done everyone wants to hear from me.”

“But once it was evident,” she continued going for her investigative reporter merit badge. “He was way out of your ability level why didn’t you let up a bit?”

“It’s like Boom Boom Mancini said after the Duk Koo Kim bout, ‘Someone should have stopped the fight and told me it was him.’ Now I don’t know if he actually said that but Warren Zevon said he did so that’s good enough for me.”

“Do you think this will be a turning point for your career?” A Tennis Channel reporter asked.

“Look at all this. It already has.” Two people call out a question at the same time so I don’t hear either.

“Listen, it’s great.” I pick up the trophy. “Everyone at the Mid-State Savings And Loan Classic, especially Steve, has been awesome to me. As far as how this will effect my career, well, I’m pretty sure more than just Dougie’s family and friends will be in the stands today. It all depends on how I do later today in the next round then the match after that then the match after that. That’s a career. What happened yesterday was a fluke. A great tennis career is anything but a fluke. That’s the great thing about tennis. Every day you’re giving another opportunity to do something awesome.”

I could actually feel Tyler and Schulyer relax. They figured I wasn’t going to say anything to tarnish the hallowed name of the Mid-State Savings And Loan Classic. I wanted to. But I also wanted to get the hell out of there. That’s not a natural environment for a normal person. It just goes to show how much more I’m going to have to learn out here.

“Actually,” Tyler interjects. “Bob’s second round Mid-State Savings And Loan Classic match has been rescheduled until tomorrow at eight PM on court one.”

“Wow.” I say astonished. “I told you there’d be more people in the stands.”

“And there are still plenty of tickets available.”

“Not for long.” I add. “Who knows how long this pointless streak will go. By the way,” I turn to Tyler. “Who am I putting my streak on the line against?”

“Guillermo Deltoro.” I look into the crowd.

“Get there early the streak could end before 8:14.”


1 Comment so far
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A water-skiing monkey?? Now that I’d like to see!

Comment by pinkunderbelly

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