I was ranked number sixteen in the world when Matthiew Zug approached me on twitter in april 2014. Matthiew had built a 14-court squash and tennis facility in the New York area and expressed an interest in inviting me to play an exhibition match at the grand opening of the new club. I put him in touch with my manager to discuss further details. The program involved hitting with some juniors on day one, playing an exhibition match with the local pro on day two, and spending some time on court with sponsors on day three. The club would pay a fee of 6000 USD for my three day appearance as well as cover all expenses. Matthiew also mentioned that spending some time at the club might turn out to be of even more value to me. An interesting future job opportunity perhaps, while I was in ‘the latest stage of my career’, he kindly brought to my attention.
We were bellowed at. And they were always right. We traveled to all corners of the earth and were followed by a group of elderly men with grey hair and thick glasses. They had devastating authority over us. But they kept us on the right path in life. They often reminded us to not argue, stay on court, and not open the door. Asked us politely to not question their decisions, never drop the racquet, and to not think for ourselves.
In locker rooms we amiably talked about referees as the fathers we never had. Only these fathers had power. Real power.
My girlfriend and I carried the boxes up the stairs. Finally, she was moving in! On her last run from the car to my apartment I heard numerous footsteps click-clacking in the hallway. Whether her dogs could stay too? Not a problem. I was going to spend most of my time at work anyway. And they looked cute enough.
The girl rolled her eyes when she saw me hesitate. Overwhelmed by all the options in front of me - Smurf blue, deep purple, poison green - I needed some time to make a choice. She was visibly annoyed when I asked her about some flavor I had never seen before, and looked at her watch in objection. Sure, there was a line, but ice cream girl seemed livid that her customer took longer than she thought necessary. I apologized, walked out, and reluctantly consumed the so-manieth chocolate ice cream I had in my life.
I was having breakfast in some hotel somewhere in the world -I can’t remember where; after so many years every tournament felt the same- while the 4-times world champion joined me at the table. The guy was ecstatic. ‘I’ve done it, LJ! Twice! In one week!’ he cried out. ‘Can you believe it!?’
I walked up to the buffet and wondered what Amr Shabana could possibly be so happy about. Had he won two World Series events in one week? Impossible, time-wise. Had he earned two business class upgrades in the last 7 days? The man probably flew business anyway. Had he gotten two good draws recently? Irrelevant. Any draw was ‘good’ to him.