Copyright 2014 Camille Leone

This story is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places and incidents are invented by the
author or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any similarity to actual
persons or events is purely coincidental.

All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in form or by any means
without the prior written consent of the author.





1


Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia 2013



The crowd could sense it, just like the two players on court.
The fourth seed of the tournament, David Ferrer, was just two points away from disposing of
former top ten player Tristan Didier Botha. Called “Didi” by his family and fans, the Cameroon
native continued to bounce the tennis ball, trying to conserve energy in the heat, hoping to fight
off Ferrer with a wide out ace. As he brought his racket down, the trajectory of the ball assured
him that it would land over the net, paint the line, and be virtually unreturnable by Ferrer. Instead
the linesman called his first serve out.
Thinking it clipped the line, Didi decided to challenge the call. The Rolex review showed
the ball was just out, and he had no more challenges left.
Steeling his nerves, Didi reminded himself that he’d once defeated Roger Federer after a
grueling five hour marathon. His second serve was in, but Ferrer’s quick forehand return
surprised him and suddenly it was match point. After a number of stinging exchanges by both
players, Didi tried coming to the net. That left the court wide open, and Ferrer sailed a beautiful
lob over his head. Scrambling to reach it, Didi played to the crowd, hitting the ball from between
his legs. While the stadium roared at his athleticism, his return sailed long. Even worse, he’d
been knocked out of another Grand Slam in the fourth round.
Didi felt like kicking his own ass, inwardly chiding himself for not playing a tune up
tournament like Brisbane International. Brisbane’s field was minus Nadal and Djokovic, so he
could’ve had a shot at the semi-finals. At thirty-one, his wins on the ATP World Tour had all
but dried up the last few years. And this year was starting off just as bad.
If he kept playing like this he’d lose the lone sponsor who’d stuck with him even after a he’d
been sidelined with a torn ligament for most of 2012. As Didi slung his tennis bag over his
surgically repaired shoulder and waved to the crowd, a cheer rose up on the nearest court where
the women were playing. The big screen in Rod Laver stadium switched from his match to
broadcasting a thrilling rally between unseeded Sinead Landon , a come from out of nowhere
player from Jamaica. Somehow Sinead had a set and a break up on Maria Sharapova. Didi signed
a few autographs, periodically glancing up at the screen to check on the match. Sharapova had
broken Sinead’s serve, and now both players were at three games apiece in the second set. As he
made his way inside and down the long hallway that led to the locker room, Sinead had broken
back and it was four games to three. After a shower and taking interview questions with
reporters about his loss, Sharapova was up six points to five in their second set tiebreaker. When
his interview was over, he heard one of the reporter’s mention Sinead Landon had lost to Maria
Sharapova.


Sitting in the lounge area of the ladies locker room, Sinead’s face was buried in her towel.
The pressure had gotten to her, and the result was a double fault on the final point. Her unforced
errors were higher than her winners, and after being in front for most of the match, she’d
inexplicably collapsed.
One minute she was playing with fierce abandon, the next she’d choked. More errors versus
winners wouldn’t cut it in the junior tourneys, let alone the pros. With stats that included nine
double faults and twenty unforced errors, it was a wonder she even took a set off Sharapova. And
that foot fault was just plain stupid, she thought. But it wasn’t that way in the first set. It was
during the second set when her nerves and the errors started creeping up.
The ESPN highlight reel would show her dramatic cross court winners on the run and her
domination over Maria Sharapova during the first set, where she dictated play. Sinead’s left
handed serve was considered a weapon, along with her ability to get the ball back quickly when
she was on defense.
As she cried into her towel, the TV showed an earlier interview with a male player named
Tristan Botha. Smiling and clowning for the reporters, Tristan Botha’s antics grated Sinead’s
nerves. Who grins at a time like this? Losing wasn’t funny, and it damn sure wasn’t a time for
cracking jokes. Losing hurt like hell, yet the guy was acting like he could care less. The
reporters’ questions strayed from his loss on court to the latest female celebrity sitting in the
stands cheering him on, until they peppered him with questions about the woman who’d adopted
him as a child. The smile quickly left Didi’s face at the mention of American actress Lauren
Andes, because not only was his mother off-limits, he didn’t need to give her the publicity. With
all the cameras pointed his way, Didi feared the footage would be inserted into Lauren’s cable
reality show, a gossipy sit-com that he vowed to have no part of. While he couldn’t do anything
about the countless photos from years ago, where he felt like an ethnic prop for his mother’s
eccentric, bohemian lifestyle, at least he could end this interview.

After watching Botha’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde act, Sinead wanted no part of talking about
her loss. She should’ve been serving for a spot in the semi’s, instead she took her anger out on
the racket sticking out of her bag. After her loss at the Australian Open, Sinead flew back to the
US, hiding out in her coach’s training facility until she resurfaced at the French Open.

2


At the Florida training facility of legendary coach Renaldo Reya, all the courts were filled
with students of every age group and bracket. Housing sun bleached courts of every surface,
from red clay, grass, to cement, Reya preached three things to all his pupils. Placement. Power.
Persistence. After getting bounced from the French Open in the second round, Sinead was
practicing daily, trying to strengthen her game and her mental attitude. Cooling down after a hard
workout with her hitting partner, she dosed her face and throat with bottled water. Replaying the
final points that got her ousted from two majors this year, all she could think about was how
easily she’d been taken out in three setters. When her pity party was over, she slowly opened her
eyelids to find Coach Reya directing a tall gentleman her way.
“Sinead Landon, meet Tristan Botha, your new doubles partner,” coach Reya said, giving
her a smile and Didi a friendly pat on the back.
After Reya’s intro, the man standing inches taller and much better looking than on TV
grinned at her, offering his hand to shake. “Everyone calls me Didi.”
Instead of shaking Didi’s outstretched hand, Sinead took a step backwards, her pretty face a
mask of confusion. “He’s my new mixed doubles partner? Him?” Dropping her head and her
shoulders, Sinead tried to compose herself. “I thought you said you’d talk to Tommy Haas or
Donald Young?”
Didi looked at Coach Reya, wondering what he’d gotten himself into. The girl was
dismissing him right to his face.
“Does my mom know?” she asked, “Are my parents okay with this?”
“Wait, how old you?” Didi said, before coach Reya could smooth things over. “You’re an
adult, right? You’re twenty. What do you need to ask your parents for?”
Sinead ignored him, speaking directly to coach Reya. “Did you clear this with them first?”
Didi shot a look of disbelief Renaldo Reya’s way. “While you’re at it could you check to see
if her parents will let her shit on her own?”
Sinead gave him a scathing eye roll and crossed her arms angrily over her chest. “Was that
supposed to be funny?”
“Oh, I forgot.” Didi slapped himself on the the forehead. “You need permission from your
your parents before you can laugh.” They glared at each other until he decided it wasn’t worth it.
“Thanks for the offer Renaldo, but I’m outta here.”
“Didi, wait-” Renaldo said, going after him while Sinead snorted and mumbled good
riddance.
As Didi strode off, he threw out over his shoulder, “This is bullshit, man. I’m here to play to
win, not to hold her hand or get approval from her mommy and daddy.”
“You don’t know anything about me!” Sinead screamed. “Hey! I’m talking to you!”
“My time is valuable, princess. I don’t work well with divas or children.”
Sounds of a struggle behind him made Didi chuckle. Oh, she was good and mad all right.
Probably ready to rip his head off. What he didn’t expect was the well hit tennis ball that stung
his left butt cheek.
Something told him not to turn around. But then, he never listed to the voice that tried to talk
sense into him. When he faced her Sinead’s eyes were blazing, giving him that same look of
determination he’d admired at the Australian Open.
“I could sue you for assault,” he told her, rubbing his backside. “But I’m thinking that ball
finally went exactly where you wanted it to, so I’m glad to be of some use.”
“I was aiming for your head.”
He shrugged. “Then I guess you really do need my help.”

End of Excerpt

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