Tennis has always been my life since I was a small boy
in Mexico City. My father was the head gardener at an
estate owned by a very important man and he used to take
me with him so I could hit the balls on the court.

I had a talent and I used it to travel the world playing
tennis and enjoying the young women who follow the game.
Women were attracted to me and I easily won them but,
after a while, I stopped winning the tournaments. Now,
at twenty-four I wondered if I had squandered my talent.

At least that’s what my coach said as he walked out,
“You’ve fucked it up, Emillio,” he said as he walked out
of the Paris hotel bedroom where he had found me with
the wife of a tournament official. “You’ve lost the will
to play and you’re only interested in whores!” With
that, he flew back to Mexico.

That night, I sought advice from a fellow player, Steve,
a young Australian who has won two Grand Slam
tournaments and I have never managed to beat. “Get a new
coach,” he said as he swigged on his mineral water and I
noticed a young woman at the bar eyeing us.

“It is not that simple,” I moaned.

“Don’t get all fucking emotional on me, Em,” he said
calmly. “Just get a new coach and focus on the game, not
on the women.”

“Steve,” I said, nudging his arm, “that blonde girl at
the bar wants you. I can see it in her eyes.”

“Not interested,” he said matter-of-factly as he took
another swig of the water. “I have a girlfriend back in
Brisbane and I’m getting married next September.”

“She won’t know,” I urged, smiling at the girl.

“But I will. Look, Em, do you want to talk to me or do
you want to fuck that girl?”

“Steve,” I protested. “I’m a changed man.”

“I bet,” he said in that dry Australian tone. “Do you
know that Johnny has retired?”

“No!” I said shocked, as Johnny was only three years
older than I was.

“Yep. Can’t blame him. He’s won it all. He’s going back
to New York. That means,” he added meaningfully, “that
Ingrid Svenson is free to take on other players.”

Ingrid Svenson, the Iron Swede, was one of the few
female coaches that worked with male players. She had
been a cold disciplined player on the court and brought
those same characteristics to her coaching. Every player
she had worked with had won at least one big tournament
but strangely, she never coached women.

“She wouldn’t take me on,” I said ruefully. “I’m not
ranked high enough.”

“Neither was Johnny when she started coaching him.” We
sat in silence for a moment. “Do you want me to talk to
her?”

“You know her?”

Steve nodded. “Yeah, she’s a friend of mine and we have
a similar approach to discipline. She’s here in Paris
and I can set up a meeting.” Steve stood and looked down
at me as I smiled again at the blonde girl at the bar.
“Do you want me to set it up, Em?” he snapped.