17 Break, make and hold

“Come on!”
Pumping her fist, Amanda went back to her chair with a little jog. She had just won the first set 6-2. It had been an excellent first set. She had played her game with beautiful strong shots and smart movement, never letting Sasha dictating the play. Against all expectations she had not crumbled against the mighty Sasha Mrachova neither had given in to the pressure of playing a Grand Slam final. After the first few games the crowd was awed by her ruthless shotmaking and had gotten behind her. Every time she had won a point, she had let the roar of the stadium wrap her up. The frenzy just set off her adrenalin and at that exact moment, the spotlights warming her face, she knew why she loved this game so much. Tennis wasn’t just about a ball and a racquet but the connection with the thousand people who came to support the players. And in this fortnight she had gained a lot of fans.

“Enjoy it,” Elise had whispered into her ear when they were standing in the catacombs of Arthur Ashe stadium. Amanda could tell that Elise was terribly proud of Amanda to reach the finale, and she infected Amanda with her enthusiasm. It also helped that no one seemed to put money on Amanda. After Sasha had won all her matches in straight sets everyone tipped the three-time Grand Slam champion to take another trophy home today. Elise’s words resounded in her head. Joy. Sometimes she couldn’t find any when playing, but after the drought of the summer this was a huge success, she had to admit it. Even if she couldn’t win it, she had thought. But here she was, a set up on Sasha in a Grand Slam finale. It had been several years since she had been able to take a set off her. What if she won another set out of the next two? It was possible, she knew it. But she shouldn’t endgame, she scolded herself.

She closed her eyes for a moment and heard Elise’s voice again. Before Amanda had to step out onto the court Elise had planted a kiss on her cheek. The thought of it made Amanda smile. The Australian looked up to her box to the left and spotted her girlfriend there.
Elise must have noticed that Amanda was looking in her direction because all of a sudden, she waved at her. It was only a little movement with her wrist. No one would have been able to understand, that the wave was directed toward Amanda. However, as soon as Amanda had thought that, Elise seemed to have become even bolder. With a shy grin she bend over her hand and after looking around if someone was watching she blew Amanda a kiss. Amanda had to smile while reminding herself to remain focused on the match. It wasn’t over yet. But Elise’s carefree attitude freed her mind. It was strange. She, who had always been awfully careful to hide her emotions and who would discourage her girlfriends from publicly displaying any affection toward her suddenly felt secure. Elise wasn’t naïve or careless. She knew what was at stake if the relationship was made public. And still she would blow her a kiss across Arthur Ashe where some thousand people could spot the gesture.

She knew what was at stake and that made it special. She was fearless and it had taken Amanda quite a while to understand why. But now she knew that Elise thoroughly trusted not only Amanda’s feelings but her own. And that brought a calmness Amanda never had before. For once, she didn’t even care if someone close to her was watching the match a few steps away from her. On the contrary, it inspired her. Elise wasn’t expecting a win. She just wanted Amanda to play her game and have fun on the court. So far, this advice had worked out very well.
“Time.”
Anastasia Stea’s voice sounded as unaffected as ever and without waiting another second, the Australian player stood up then reached the baseline jogging under the applause. She was ready for the second set. But she knew this one would be a lot harder. Even though she had looked off sometimes and her serve had failed her more than once, Sasha wouldn’t let go of it easily.
Getting ready for the Czech’s assault Amanda bend forward to receive the first serve.