The match is on her racket; the advantage is hers in a match that, if she were to win, would send her into the quarterfinal. Not only that, but it would also be a victory that solidifies her as a player to be contended with, which, more than anything else, is what she really wants.
Up 5-4, her first serve is returned, but it is a very short defensive lob. Her opponent is in “no-woman’s-land.’ She has either side of the court to choose from and takes it out of the air. “Ohhhhhhh,” groans the crowd. You can almost hear the play-by-play announcer from the booth. “Goodness me, how has she done that?” Back to deuce. Eventually, she would wind up being broken and lose the match 7-5. In the end, she would walk up to the net, give her opponent a hug in a fine show of sportsmanship, and shake the umpire’s hand just as she was supposed to do. However, beneath the smiles and the acknowledgment of the crowd, something in her was seething over the loss.
Her boyfriend argues with her that she is “too nice” to the other women on tour and that she is too invested in the “elegant, classy” nature of the sport of Tennis. Any behavior outside of the classic, traditional framework of the sport, anything that deviates from the way a Tennis player, particularly a women’s Tennis player, is supposed to behave, is immediately reprimanded. There is a certain fear of sports media leading a smear campaign against her just for saying how she feels in response to any question thrown her way. The boyfriend insists to her that her commitment to sportsmanship and class is a contributing factor in her not “getting over the hump.” Occasionally, albeit in a playful manner, the boyfriend will intentionally poke the bear, so to speak, in order to induce anger. He wants her to get mad, and when on the rare instance where he is successful, he says to her, “This is the energy you need to bring on-court!” She loves and trusts him and agrees that he may be on to something.
Unfortunately, one night, this playful “poking of the bear” turned into something much darker, something not-so-playful. He committed a cardinal sin within the confines of the relationship, resulting in their consequent separation and permanent break-up. For months, she grieved, and her level of Tennis dropped dramatically. Reading the comments on various social media apps only exacerbated her depression – comments such as, “She won’t even be a top 20 player; forget about the top 10.” They say everyone comes to a point when “enough is enough.” Maybe it was just the stages of grief, but the sadness turned into a venomous, bitter anger. As a matter of fact, when out for a night on the town, she was caught bad-mouthing a player whom she had never defeated on numerous attempts. “Oh, [expletive] that [expletive],” she said whilst inebriated, accompanied by obscene hand gestures. When asked about the incident and whether she would apologize, she doubled down, saying, “Whatever. I don’t care; I don’t like her. I don’t have to like everybody.”
She played well enough to qualify for a major tournament. The spotlight was on her, although not for her Tennis, which she would have preferred. The side-eyed looks she got from her peers and condescending questions from reporters compounded her anger. “They have no idea what I’ve been going through,” she thought to herself. As she progressed her way through the tournament, the handshakes at the net after a win were less friendly, and at times there was some unpleasant banter between her and the opposition. “I feel like I’ve always been capable of playing at this level, and finally, it’s showing,” she said at a press conference. Certainly, she looked as if she were more of a threat to “take it,” as Tennis fans say, than she ever had before.
Alas, the moment came when she would be in a similar position to the one she was in just a year ago – another chance to enter the quarterfinal of a major tournament. After winning the first set against the same opponent she shit-talked (even though she was unaware of the moment being recorded), the one that she had never beaten previously, the second set went to a tiebreak. If you aren’t privy to the rules of a tiebreaker in Tennis, it’s simple – first to record 7 points wins, but you have to win by 2. She battled back from down 4-1 in the tiebreak and, finally, led the tiebreak 6-5. It was match point. Before the point, she took a deep breath and muttered to herself, “I’m [expletive] taking it. Right now. Right [expletive] now.”
She received a short ball and had either side of the court to choose from…
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