The Tennis Curmudgeon

The Week – Part Six
September 28, 2013, 12:36 am
Filed under: Tennis, Tennis Curmudgeon, The Tennis Curmudgeon | Tags: , ,


The local news was on when I woke the next morning. Newscasts in cities your not from always seem weird. The newscasters always look like their wearing throwback newscaster clothes and the production looks barely a step ahead of a cable access talk show. I’m sure it’s because you’re not used to them but no matter where I go I haven’t been able to shake that feeling.

“You’re up early.” Says the woman in bed next to me. Try as I might, I can’t remember her name.

Good thing an older guy gave me a little wisdom to fend off the next morning mumbles. He instructed me to write her name on a piece of paper early in the evening and, when she inevitable went to the bathroom, slip it under the rooms coffee maker.

Nothing suspicious about a gentleman offering a lady a cup o’ Joe in the morning now, is there?

“Always.” I get out of bed and step across the room. “Would you like some coffee,” I say lifting up the coffee maker. “Denise?”

“I don’t know if I have time but you’re a doll to ask.”

“One of our own tried his hand at professional tennis yesterday. But it wasn’t quite what he expected.”

“I don’t know maybe I would. . .”

“. . .hold on, for a sec, would ya?” I say stepping in front of the television. Hot damn, they’re reporting on my match. “This is the guy I played.” The newscast cuts away to a report recorded yesterday. “That guy interviewed me.”

“Everybody around here thinks he’s the shit but he’s not. He gave my girlfriend Carol chlamydia.”

“Hold on, would you?” I pull a chair in front of the television and turn it up.

“. . .as a wild card entry and it seems he bit off more than he could chew.”

The video cuts to Dougie on the court getting the run around from yours truly.

“Are they going to show you?”

“I don’t know. If we’re quiet we’ll find out together.”

“. . .as you can see here Dougie was having all kinds of trouble being on the same court with the two hundred and fiftieth ranked player in the world, Bob Lyle.”

“Two hundred and sixteenth.”

“Shush.” Denise says. The screen cuts to a shot of a sweating Dougie.

“It was amazing out there. You have to give him credit. If someone I’ve never heard of can whoop me like that I can only imagine what a top player would do to me.” The report cuts to a shot of me. Boy, do I look tired. Or maybe it’s old. Maybe it’s both.

“He’s a real good player.” I only said that hoping to get on TV. “I’m sure with a few more matches under his belt he’ll start getting the hang of it.” The cut goes to a smiling Dougie. Obviously after a shower.

“That’s real nice of him to say but I think I’m going to take his post-match advice and go golfing.”

I laughed at that.

“When we asked if Dougie planned on trying to make it on the tour he said no. I can sort of see why. Not only was he doubled bageled by the low ranked player. . .”

“. . .I have a name, you know. . .”

“. . .but it was reported after the match he didn’t even allow Dougie a single point. Now I don’t think that was good sportsmanship. I’m Chet Garland, back to you at the news desk.”

“Wow.” I say turning the television down a little.

“Were you a bad sport?” I turn to Denise.

“No. I mean, no. I just played. I knew I beat him at love but I had no idea he didn’t win a point.” I turn halfway around in my chair to look at Denise.

Wow! She’s pretty. I wonder how it’s possible I could have forgotten that fact. It’s only been what? Six, seven hours since we met?

“That’s never done, right?”

“Not often I’d guess. If I’d known that’s what was happening I definitely would have given him a point. I actually considered letting him win a service game but, I don’t know, it didn’t work out.”

I begin thinking over the match. It really is a blur. I know it took less than forty minutes. While losing myself there Denise leans over and whispers.

“I guess you’re the best tennis player on the planet.”

“Yesterday. That was yesterday.”

“I wonder if you can be the best of something else on the planet today.” I smile as Denise as she pulls me to the bed.

“I guess there’s only one way to find out.”

I did my best but I’m sure I was far from the best. I was too distracted by the match. I couldn’t get over the fact, if it was indeed a fact, that I pitched a perfect game or whatever they’d call the tennis equivalent.

Turns out tennis authorities have to make it even more grandiose by naming it a ‘Golden Set’. It’s only been done a couple of times, once in each gender. So what I was told I accomplished was a ‘Golden Match’ which had never been done. The tournament director got all pissy when I asked if I got to keep the tournament like in Willie Wonka.

I wasn’t prepared for was the amount of interviews they wanted me to do. I’ve got to tell you, the report I just watched was the first time I’d even been on TV as a player. And I wasn’t even the focus of the piece.

The rules say after a match you have to make yourself available to the press. Do you have any idea to show up to a press conference and have to field questions from a kid reporting for his high school paper? But you’re glad to do it because at least someone showed up.

So I was ill prepared for the onslaught at the front desk. As always, I tell the desk to hold all my calls. That’s never been an issue before. If I have one that’s sort of a big deal. Most of the time if someone needed me they were close enough to knock on my door.

“You have messages.” Said the frazzled looking desk clerk. “Tyler Morgan has called a dozen times.” She said holding out an armful of slips. “Getting angrier with each call.” I take the slips slightly alarmed.

“Then his will be the last call I make. No need to start my day off with someone pissed at me.” I thank her and tell her if I get any more calls from the press to direct them to Morgan.

I don’t particularly like tournament directors. People like me are the dishwashers at a resort to them. A necessary evil to shore up the headliners. I walked into an area with a phone, sat down and immediately called my amateur doubles partner.

“Can you believe this shit?”

“It’s got to be some kind of mistake. It’s been playing every hour on ESPN. I’m sick of looking at you.”

“It’s on ESPN? What are they showing?”

“They have twenty seconds of you hitting a ball to a guy then they show him falling down.”

“I don’t remember him falling down.”

“You’ve always been stupid.”

“Yeah, stupid as a sneaker full of shit on ESPN, motherfucker.” As with most people I’ve known John and I are closeish. All we had in common was tennis.

He had hundred thousand dollar skills, beautiful strokes, with a three cent head. I once saw him hit an ace or double fault for an entire match on his serve. The guy he was playing kept walking back and forth accepting his fate. He’d alter his stroke production so often he was perpetually starting from square one.

He was also an extremely bright guy from an extremely wealthy family. They didn’t like me much, not being wealthy, and sure didn’t like what they perceived as my influence on John, not being bright.

I probably couldn’t have played as many tournaments as I did without him. He picked up every entrance fee for years. He’d drive us there, pay for lodging, foot the entire bill. That was so cool especially because he was mostly rung out of singles in the first or second round. But he’d stay there happy to be moving on in doubles. I told him if I ever made it I’d repay him.

“Just get famous and that will repay me.”

Off the court, for obvious reasons, we didn’t hang out much. It wasn’t just the fact I didn’t run at his echelon but also I tended to stay on the court. Tennis was only one part of his life. I didn’t have his options. I’m not saying he wouldn’t have taken me. I went to some parties. But I knew there was more for me outside a group of people who would never accept me.

“So, does this make me famous?” John laughed.

“You bet. Do you still have your clothes and gear?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“I want them.” Now it was my turn to laugh.

“You sneaky little fucker.” John liked it when I swore at him. He said he made it seem real. Less sterile.

“Hey! I said I wanted you to get famous. I didn’t say I wouldn’t capitalize on it. What do you think? My family got rich not taking advantage of the little people?” Now was my turn to laugh.

“It’s all in the room.”

“Is one of your bitches in there?” He didn’t want to hear details. Just that there was potential for details.

“What do you think? You think the best tennis player in the world yesterday is going to bed alone?”

“Well, you better get in there before she walks out of there with my things. They’re going to make a killing on ebay.” I try to remember where the gear is. I usually throw the dirty clothes in the tub. My racket is in my bag. I think I may have taken a few of the balls with me. I usually do. It’s always good to have some around. “Sign it all and send it to the house.”

“Which house?”

“The main family house, of course, old chum.” We laugh and end the call. I jam the papers in my pocket and head to the room. I’ll deal with press later. I have to repay a friend first. I start heading back to the room.

“There you are. I’ve been calling all night.” I know that can only be Tyler Morgan, Tournament Director. “Do you know how much the press has been hounding me?” I pull the slips of paper out of my pocket and push them to his chest. Instinctively he grasps at them so I let them go. They’re his problem now.

“Probably this much.” I heading to my room.

“Where are you going?”

“To the room. I’ve got to get my shit. I’ve got a practice session in an hour.” Tyler scurries to get in front of me.

“You have a press conference in twenty minutes.” I know it’s a big deal if the TD came instead of sending a press minion. I have to admit I was a little excited.

“Okay. Let me get my stuff.” I turn and Tyler puts his hand on my shoulder.

“I’ll send someone to gather your stuff.” Now that’s a first. I’m about to fall for it then I remember John.

“No, I’ll get it.” I brush Tyler’s hand off. “It’ll only take a minute.” I jog down the hallway while Tyler consults his watch.

“Don’t be long.”


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