The Tennis Underground (draft)

     in memory of a memorable tennis player.  evidently this Fries guy was quiet a fellow.  his unexpected passing from cancer in his latish forties was a cruel demonstration of the devil's work.  many, if not everybody, at the event had been impacted personally by this killer.  the fight continues.  and there is victory on both sides, this battleground of our lives.  the war was won long ago.  the destruction and decay we see daily is sour grapes.  the builders keep building.  the encouragers keep encouraging.  the war is won.
     tennis folks were all around.  this academy in frisco.  passed right by, it so perfectly compliments the neighborhood.  a tight fit, no chance for indoor courts now.  just play in the mist and train in the rain.  many prodigies.  drills and drills and drills.  didn't see a backboard, but surely there is one.  a small pool, a boutique, rooms of cardio, rooms of weights.  places for private talks, a large entertainment room, flat screens playing u.s. open reruns.  Serena smashing forehands, then later Novak sliding on the hard court.  his ankles will hurt when he gets old.
     the arrival was a flurry, knowing no one and getting familiar with the place.  walked around like I belonged.  checked in at the registration table, staffed with smiling young ladies scribbling check marks on stapled pages and offering each player an appreciation gift.  Payment was made and change back was refused, give it to the pink fight.  color coordinated teams were all around, which allowed me the opportunity to seek out and introduce myself to the grey wearing blowfish team.  each of them was nice and courteous.  I quickly checked in with Marty Feldman, older brother of King The Todd, and obvious instigator and insurer of this event.  he was everywhere, carrying bottles of water, behind the scenes, helpful.  The Todd is known by all, even though this is not his home club.  Said hey to Huffman, a King division player in KOtC.  Prince Fess was spotted playing for another team.  He was a title sponsor, complete with a sign on the showcase court.  He knew this Fries guy, as did a few others I spoke with.  an endearing and chatty player, 'not in a bad way, but a funny way, always making little comments.'  His death was a shock just the year before.  Quick and unforgiving.  Esophagus.  A huge poster was displayed that accommodated many pink tennis ball stickers full of written prayers and names of loved ones that have battled.  and all battled successfully.  For to battle is to win.  Everlasting life is as good as it seems.
     The format was 4.0 doubles for me.  Three 8 game prosets, no ad.  Each with a different grey shirt partner.  First match, played with Blake, a member and a very solid player.  A huge backhand and solid serve.  Tall and smooth, and consitent.  Later, he lamented his 'bad knees' and I sensed that as a younger player he was an ace.  Easy going and friendly, we got along right away.  We won our first match 8-2.  Next, I was paired with David.  A player with no second serve, which I admired greatly.  first serves only.  blast after blast after blast.  he was very competitive and focused.  Although we both waited over two hours for our match, we defeated our opponents 8-5 in a highly contested match.  Finally, late in the afternoon, teamed up with Rich to defeat a father son duo in red 8-6.  A the young one, 18 or so, seemed put out to be there.  He was easily frustrated, but evidence of a once emerging game was apparent.  his dad later confided, over beers, that his frustrations could have been due to the realization of lost dreams.  Rich was a solid player and fine fellow.  a bit older, sporting ray bans, and a money return of serve on the for forehand side.  Going 3-0 in my matches left me feeling like I pulled my weight for the blowfish team.  Finding out later that our team won the Fries Cup when all the #'s were counted made me even more satisfied.  winning is always better than losing.  points, games, prosets, mahuts, royal titles.  the Earl of Nantucket is on a roll.  it will end, as it does for everyone.  Nadal knows.  McEnroe too, although he is still destroying the likes of Courier, Chang, and James Blake.  But, Roddick still has his number.  Along
with Isner, he is our only post- Sampras American tennis hero.  the 2002 u.s. open was important to Americans for obvious reasons.  Roddick showed up!
   throughout the day, on the court and on the large porch containing all the idle players, I was asked about where I played out of or which club I was from.  I was searching for appropriate answers all day.  joining a place never occurred to me.  I have opponents at the ready.  they are in my glowphone.  courts are plentiful and accommodating day or night.  KOtC is established and played twice a year.  Keck and i have Wednesday on the schedule.  Bill Vita same thing with Saturday morning.  Periodic Joe Vita mahuts.  T-Roy.  Bobby.  I stammered and searched for responses.  "I don't really play out of anywhere" to "play around town here and there" to "with some dudes" to "eagles landing" to "public tennis" to " I used to belong to eldorado" to "I might join eldorado" to "the tennis underground", which I stuck with.  the idle time inevitable when 150 players show up to fight the hated cancer, led to significant socializing and drinking time.  I met many fine people.  Bill, who stretched out a wobbly knee with huge leg kicks.  Gil, the old man of our father/son duo, who was in a similar business and knew the forts of mckinney.  another dude, who told me the story of Doug Fries.  He had tears in his eyes.  Everyone was nice.  Even the SMU tennis team was nice, despite sitting at the same table looking like hired assassins early on.  they loosened up and were scattered throughout the draw, playing for different teams.  they put on a show.  one got hit right in the kisser.  yes, that kisser. layer on the court for a few minutes, withering in pain.  there was a large crowd gathered.  the oooohhs, the laughs, the awwwws.  he was a good sport and waved to the crowd as he limped to the changeover bench.  the mustangs have a chance to make some noise this year.  poise, empathy, and the look of winners.  other former college players were there.  they reminded everyone of our place.  there is another level and another and another after that.  for now, we play tennis.  Mahut!!