With her racquet bag on her shoulders, Gabriella Ozolini left the locker rooms and made her way through the large corridor that led to the players’ central lobby. Hitting some balls with other players than her sister had turned out to be extremely pleasing and the fear of alienating herself from Lulu too much, too soon was now slowly fading away to her relief. Obviously, the changes she had decided to stick to in Stanford were paying off. Yes, everything would have been perfect if it hadn’t been for the current draw.
Two days ago the Cincinnati draw had been done. And it caused sleepless nights for Gabriella. Stopping for the thousandth time in front of the large draw board that had been set up next to the computer room, Gaga went slowly through all the names.
Cincinnati was one of the last tournaments before the US Open. In one word, a tournament the players wanted to shine in.
After quite a few years on tour, Gaga had become an expert in analyzing a draw. She didn’t need the help of her coach or a team to figure out who she might meet in the third round or a quarter final. She was better analyzing potential match ups than most of the players which was due to the pact she had played with Luella. Her eyes stopped on her sister’s name. Lulu would have to beat two easy opponents in the first two rounds. And if she won, which was very likely she would have to play Sasha in the third round.
“Damn,” Gaga said to herself. Every time she had followed the branches of the trees she was still shocked. That was exactly the kind of scenario that Gabriella needed to avoid at all cost. Sasha’s words, after they had played the Wimbledon final, still rang in her ears.
I know your little secret, Sasha had said. In sleepless nights during her brief vacation she had figured out that Sasha thought Lulu was gay. It was hilarious to imagine that anyone could believe Lulu was into girls and bearding with Raphael. But standing in front of the wicked draw again, Gabriella couldn’t laugh.
There must be a solution, she thought. Of course, she could simply pick up the Ozolini Pact again and play for Lulu. She was sure, when it came to playing Sasha her twin sister would be more than happy if Gaga offered to play the Czech. But she didn’t want to give in to her new independence. How was she supposed to break free from Luella if she played Sasha this tournament. She had to stay strong.
Out of frustration she gave the wall a little kick.
“You don’t like the draw,” a voice behind her announced.
Gabriella whirled around. It was Tom. She gave him a quick smile but shook her head.
“Well, everyone is looking forward to a potential rematch of the Wimbledon final,” Tom smiled. Gaga realized that he mistook her for Luella.
“Sure,” she shrugged, then turned around and walked away without another word, knowing that he thought he was talking to Luella for whom such a behavior was normal.
Gabriella stepped out of the players’ area and looked up at the sky. It was a cloudless day, perfect and warm. The sun was blinding. A gorgeous Indian summer announced itself in America. She took a long, deep breath then closed her eyes. She had to calm down! A few seconds flew away.
Perhaps Lulu screwed up and lost in the earlier rounds. Perhaps the anticipated match between Lulu and Sasha and a possible meeting in the locker rooms would never happen.
Gabriella swallowed hard. No, her twin sister had the perfect draw for the first two rounds. A qualifier and another player ranked beyond the Top 50.
She began walking across the grass area to the parking lot, but then straightened her back and cocked her chin into the air before resolutely stepping out onto the pavement.
There was no way Lulu was going to meet Sasha alone in a locker room. No way.