01 Ready? Play!

The sun was shining, sliding along the court to embrace the lines and the net in this peculiar way that Lynn Pebblestone had grown addicted to through the years. Following the classic checkups – height of the net, the appropriate cleanliness of the court – the umpire wandered around and lost herself in thoughts. She had been on the tour for a long time now, had seen a lot of players come and go and quietly enough, had developed a series of sharp observation skills along as well.

The girls. She called them the girls. Each one of them coming with her own temper, her weaknesses as well as her dreams. And that strong determination that seemed to fill every one of them. At times, she had considered some as the daughters she never had. She enjoyed the respectful, friendly relationship between the umpires and the players. But they usually stuck to their own group. Lynn didn’t have the right to get closer. But they meant a lot to her. Some more than others, naturally enough.

She especially loved the beginning of the season. The excitement of the players to get out on the court again was palpable. After weeks of grinding practice and fitness exercise the girls displayed the skittishness of racing horses. Lynn enjoyed to see them flocking in one by one. It felt like hitting the road for a summer camp. In fact, a 10-month summer camp moving all around the world. All of the players – some more than others – had a moment when they let it loose and behaved, or rather misbehaved exactly like the young folks they were. Behind the scenes of the player parties, where the cameras were not allowed to roll, was the place where the good stories originated.

It was these stories that kept the summer camp alive and buzzing. Moreover, they were the natural resource for The Love Game, as it was called. Lynn and some other umpires played it every year. They would pick several players and guessed who they would end up with. Every umpire had four guesses. The Grand Slams of the Love Game. Over the years Lynn had made it to her very own No. 1 ranking having won the year end championship title thirteen times since 1988. She was the queen of the Love Game.
This year she had already placed her bets for the 2011 season and she was sure that again it would be a successful year for her.