Chapter 1 My last clear memory is running towards a drop shot my opponent just hit.

I remember tucking my head towards the ground and sprinting for the ball, trying to save myself from an embarrassing defeat. But, when I got there, total darkness. I do not remember a single thing that happened since then. As of 3AM on Friday, I am apparently in a hospital room and the nurse has informed me that I have suffered from heat exhaustion and a concussion. Usually, these two symptoms do not go hand in hand. Apparently, when I got to the ball, I failed to stop quickly enough and slammed my head into the net post. Beeping noises are constantly sounding off in the room and there is an air of staleness just like any typical hospital. The lone sound of beeping is deafening which only leaves me with my thoughts. My thoughts are the last things I want to be left with. I prop myself up from my bed and a sharp pain drives through me and brings me to a relentless cough. My eyes burn and rubbing them brings no relief. I place my hands to my face and let go of a huge sigh allowing all the stress and aches in my body to rush out. “What the hell happened to me?”, I question myself. Thank goodness no one is in the room. Through the eyes of a stranger, I’m sure I can be misconstrued for a senile senior. The beeping continues to drive me insane. The room is so dark. It is identical to the feeling of closing your eyes and trying to look into the darkness of your lids. My eyes can’t seem to adjust to the poor lighting, I’m sure the rubbing doesn’t help much either. Another sigh escapes me, the room echoes in response. A stirring motion and quick chirp startles me as I swing my head to the side of my bed. There is a figure in the room but it is too dark to discern if it could be a friend or complete stranger. I survey the room for any indication of a light switch but with no avail. I am here in the darkness with no sense of direction and no knowledge of who may be with me. I chuckle to myself. It seems like my entire life has been black and white with no sense of direction. The only path I know to follow is the path my racket instinctively moves in. “Victor?” I am so frazzled that I don’t know where this voice came from. Was it the person in the chair or my sanity being consumed by my thoughts? “Victor! You’re up! How are you feeling?” The lights enter the room quickly like how I imagine the big bang developing. My eyes already adjusted to the abyss so I cover my eyes with my hand naturally coming up to let as little light as possible into my peripherals. I try to blink rapidly to adjust quicker but it comes with no improvement. “Whoops, sorry Victor. I’ll dim the lights down a little bit.” The voice sounds extremely familiar, definitely someone I’ve been with for a long time, definitely someone close and comfortable with because I feel no tension or fear for my life. “Thanks.” I reply. “That helps a lot. The light was killing me after sitting in the dark for so long.”

“How long have you been up for?”, asked the mystery person. I glance over at the clock and I see that it is 7AM. Have I really been sitting here thinking for that long? Four hours since I’ve been up and time barely felt like it moved 5 minutes. “Looks like around 4 hours if that clock is right. Man, sure didn’t seem like it. Derrick, is that you?” Derrick has been my best friend, confidant and coach for the last 10 years. “Of course it’s me. Who the hell else would it be?” “I don’t know man… I just don’t know. You know how you sometimes have an out of body experience because the events that are happening around you is so surreal that your body just can’t believe that it’s true? I feel like that right now. Sorry Derrick. I just couldn’t recognize you when the lights were turned off.” My eyes being adjusted now and the silhouette of Derrick slowly begins to take shape. Part by part, the man I’ve known for years appear before my eyes. His short cut brown hair and long nose are the first to appear for me. Next, I see a small smile, clearly I’ve been in poor condition or he wouldn’t be in such a good mood. My bed floats up and down. He must have just sat next to me. Man my head is killing me, how the hell did he get next to me so fast? “Are you sure you’re feeling okay? You seem to be a little slow. Do you want me to get the nurse for you?” Derrick asks out of sympathy, I think. “Yeah, could you? My head is killing me. Can you also turn the lights off? I don’t think my eyes are ready for such brightness.” “Sure thing pal. I’ll go get the nurse and turn the lights off.” I hear steps leaving me and then the darkness appears. Is it pathetic to feel the most comfortable in the darkness where no one can see or judge who you are? The only thing you can determine in the dark is existence. You can’t determine who the person is, their personality, their likes or dislikes. The only thing you know for certain is if they exist or they do not. But then again, there’s also the possibility that you’re wondering if they exist or not. But at least in the dark, it’s a state of absolute. Light shines in again and the lights go up immediately, blinding me into distress. I shield my eyes quickly and slam them shut. “Mr. Chung, I hear you’re experiencing a headache and seem to be very sensitive to light. Not to worry, these are very common after effects when one has suffered from a concussion. For the sensitivity, you just have to be slowly exposed to light until you feel you have adjusted and I have some pills to help soothe the headache.” The nurse takes my IV and shoves in fluids, which will help soothe my headache. I

continue to blink to get a sense of the room. It would just be nice to see clearly again rather than everything being one big blur. “Nurse, I really can’t see anything. Could you dim the lights a little so I can adjust?” The light flicker off again. “Thank you nurse.” “Sure thing Mr. Chung. Now, is there anything else I can assist you with?” “I think I’m fine for now. Thank you for your help.” “So Victor, how much do you remember?”, Derrick asked. “Not much, I remember sprinting for that pesky drop shot and then darkness. What the hell happened?” Derrick laughs but quickly regains his composure, as he seemed to remember the brevity of the situation. “Understandable. Yup, you’ve always that competitive fight in you where you never just let a ball go, even when you’re against all odds. Pretty much like you said, except after you reached the drop shot, you must’ve have slipped or something because you went head first into the net post. We were all scared to death, the whole crowd gasped in unison. I don’t think anyone has seen a tennis player touring the challenger’s fight so hard for a match. But I suppose that’s what we have come to expect from you. Isn’t that right, Victor?” He knew well enough to know he was right. Rhetorical questions were never something I enjoyed in my life and I do not plan on starting. The beeping continues to irritate me. It’s the sound where you try to put it into the back of your mind but subconsciously always know it’s there and you find your mind wandering in search of the sound to reinsure yourself that it hasn’t left. That’s this beeping to me. “Derrick, when the hell do I get out of here? You know how much I hate hospitals.” “I know buddy, I know. It won’t be for at least two to three days. The doctor wants to keep you under evaluation before he clears you considering your employment.” So skipping the rhetorical question I can insert at this point, I’ll cut to the chase. At this point in my life, I am a full-time tennis competitor. My breakthrough to the ATP hasn’t been accomplished yet so I am jetting between challenger and local tournaments to pump up my rankings to make it to the big leagues. I came close in 2009, where I was one win away for a wild card ticket to the US Open, but I lost to Jack Sock that year. Tennis has been a part of my life since the time that I could walk. My father is the pioneer and motivating factor behind this decision. He has always wanted a son to carry the torch for the family, to become the next great star. I started playing when I was 4 years old. Picking up my first children’s racket was an experience in itself, the racket was too big for me and too heavy. Naturally, my

father pushed me through and through till I learned how to swing with the weight by using the momentum of my body. I remember that day very clearly. Stepping-stones are key events in life where an individual progresses and develops in a specific activity. It’s very difficult to forget stepping-stones when your life has been dedicated to one thing. I’m lucky that I fell in love with the sport and training. I wasn’t one of those children who despised going into practice on a daily basis and resented their family because of this. Contrary to popular belief due to his stoic behavior at my matches, my father is a very supportive and nurturing figure. Never wanting but the best for me, he has pushed me since day one. As I grew older, I started to enter tournaments. My first tournament was at the age of eight. I was entered in the 13 plus division thus making me the youngest and shortest player at the tournament. Never had instances like this intimidated me as the competition and thirst to improve convoluted the fact that I was matching up against stronger and taller kids. I won that tournament, shocking the recruits and tennis instructors there. This is my second stepping-stone where I was head hunted by a multitude of tennis facilities to develop my skills with them. A tennis facility is built upon reputation. Reputation comes from a couple of things: an amazing coaching staff and the success of the youth who pass through there. The tactic my father used was to go to a no-name tennis facility. The facility would pour all their resources in developing me to develop their own reputation. I was training in Boca Raton, Florida for eight years. My coach, Derrick, has been with me since. He was an ex semi-pro who toured along with the likes of Roger Federer and Andre Agassi. Injuries, lack of talent and diminishing resources put his career to a halt in the early nineties. Since, he’s been traveling from facility to facility to find the one special recruit whom he can bring to the big spotlight and make a sensation. Derrick is 5’10”, relatively short for a tennis professional. He hits right handed with a solid two-handed backhand. His slice needs work, but his style has always been baseline attacking with flat shots. If you see him hit topspin, he must be out of position. He makes an excellent hitting partner for adapting to pure power players, which we’ve seen a rise in modern day tennis. For a better-rounded tennis game, we usually hire college kids or low ranked players to rally with me, so I can get a sense for the style. That’s a little bit of me for now. “Hey Vic, I think it’s a good idea if you rested a little.” Derrick said, interrupting my thoughts. “Yeah, that’s probably a good idea. I just really want to get out of here.” “You’ll be out soon buddy. Two days tops, I promise.” As he set out the room again, I was left with my thoughts and darkness. Shit.

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