Centre court

by Doreen F.

Ryan was a very famous tennis player by the time he was 23. He had won many important tournaments and had once reached the US-Openís semi-final. At the age of 5 his parents had given him the possibility to take tennis lessons and he had soon become one of the best of his age. Ryan had even participated in tournaments where all the other players were older and he had won. His talent could not be overlooked. Scouts from the most famous tennis academies of the country and even from other countries came to convince him to attend their programme. Although Ryan didnít want to leave his family, his parents decided that he should go to the best academy of all.

It was probably one of the worst times in his life. Ryan had been 12 when the decision had been made. The academy was so far away that he had to fly to get there. He missed his family a lot and even more when it turned out that being at the academy meant no fun at all. There was school in the morning and training in the afternoon. In the time which remained, Ryan had to study because good marks were expected. The other boys were extremely self-centered and selfish. Hardly anyone wanted to make friends, their aim was success. Every time Ryan was at home, he told his parents how terrible life at the academy was, but they could not do anything against it. They had signed a contract and received money, which they needed desperately now because Ryanís father had lost his job and it was hard to find a new job. His mother did not earn much money and they had to take care of Ryanís two little sisters as well. There was no point arguing, Ryan had to stay at the academy.

After two years at the academy Ryan finally found a friend. A new boy came at the beginning of the term and he also became Ryanís room mate since nobody wanted to share a room except Ryan and the new boy. His name was Timmy and they got along very well. Timmy missed his family a lot too and they were interested in the same things and admired the same tennis players. They helped each other concerning school and tennis and soon they started to enjoy life at the academy. Time passed quickly and at the age of eighteen after their graduation, they hired a trainer for both of them and turned professional. At the beginning everything on the ATP-tour was new to them and they were so impressed that they did not have time to win their matches. But soon their trainer was able to make sure they focused on tennis again. So their successful time began. Timmy was the first one to win against Andre Agassi, who at this time was number 4 in the Champions Race. Motivated by his friendís success Ryan beat Tim Henman and they met in the final of this tournament. This was one of the most emotional matches they had ever played. Ryan new Timmyís weaknesses and vice versa, but neither of them wanted to let the other one win or lose easily. Every set was followed by a tie break and the whole match took nearly three hours for three sets. In the end Ryan won, but either of them would have deserved to win. After the match point they hugged each other and both of them left the court as winners. Neither of them had been in an ATP-final before.

Their trainer was really proud, but tried to stop their enthusiasm a bit. He did not want them to overestimate themselves. As an ex-professional he knew how fast you could win and lose. But neither Ryan nor Timmy were that kind of people. They had seen many stars and starlets rise and fall and did not want to be among those who fell. So they focused on their training and tried to get better and better. Their aim was to win a Grand Slam-tournament, which turned out to be more difficult than winning any other ATP-match. On the ATP-tour they were really successful, also playing double and at the age of 21 Ryan was listed as number 20 and Timmy number 24. Both of them had been in the grand slamís quarter- and semi-finals, but neither had managed to get to the final. Even though they had had minor injuries, they were in pretty good shape and eager to give the grand slam-tournaments another try.

Due to their busy lives, Ryan and Timmy had never managed to have a relationship which lasted for a longer period of time. Both had been cheated on by their girlfriends and they had been disappointed more than once. Their fame led to an amount of fans neither of them would have dreamed of, but they did not want to get involved with a fan.

On Timmyís 22nd birthday they had a really great party and Timmy met a girl and fell completely in love with her. Ryan was really happy for his best friend, but somehow he envied him because Marissa was very beautiful and nice. He knew that Timmy deserved Marissa, however, Ryan felt lonelier as Timmy spent a lot of time with Marissa. Their coach did not care because Timmyís results did not suffer; he got even better and reached the final of the Australian open. There he was beaten by Marat Safin and it was one of the most exciting finals ever. Ryan was in the audience sitting next to Marissa and was sad not to be in Timmyís place since he had lost against him in the semi-final, but he was also cheering his buddy on, knowing that he would do the same. Afterwards they comforted Timmy, who was disappointed, but he knew that he had challenged Safin a lot.

Ryan reached the French Openís final that year and he won. This victory was one of the most emotional moments of his career. It was even better because his opponent was Andre Agassi, who had won this tournament more than once. However, after his victory in Paris, Ryanís results dropped, he lost in Wimbledon in the third round and did not show any good results until the US-Open, where he reached the quarter-final. Timmy won the US-Open and now both of them could call themselves "champions". Still nobody knew why Ryan was not playing in the way he used to. Their trainer had tried everything to motivate his talent, but nothing seemed to work. One could not call it lack of motivation, Ryan trained harder than ever and was in great shape, but he could not place the balls as he used to.

Right after the US-Open the trainer sent Ryan to a doctor to find out what was wrong. Ryan was extremely worried by that time; he thought he might have a serious illness. The doctor took his time; analyzed blood samples examined every part of Ryanís body and asked several questions. After the examination he said," Well, son, I canít see that there is anything wrong with you. You are in extremely good health, so that canít be the reason for your bad results. According to your description of the problem you might have problems with your concentration, which according to your trainer you donít. So let me ask you one last question, have you ever been to an ophthalmologist?"

"No, why?" Ryan wanted to know.

"Well, the only other reason I could give you, is that there is something wrong with your eyesight", the doctor replied

Ryan was glad to hear that he was not ill, but the doctorís last comment did not make him feel better. He was shocked. Ryan had never had problems with his eyes. The doctor must be wrong.

Timmy met Ryan outside and wanted to know how it had been. Ryan told him that he did not have any illness and that he was in good health, but that the doctor had suggest going to an ophthalmologist. "I donít think heís right, I can see fine, Iíve never had any problems with my eyes", Ryan told him.

"Yeah, but itís probably better to see one anyway, isnít it? Iíve been to an ophthalmologist before I got my driving license, but never since", Timmy said.

"Iíve never been to one in my entire life, my eyes were always fine. I got my driving license without problems."

Nevertheless Ryan made an appointment at an ophthalmologist for the following day. When he got there everything seemed strange, all the people who were waiting wore glasses except him. When it was Ryanís turn, the doctor asked him, why he had come and Ryan described the problem. Then the doctor started his examination and Ryan noticed that some of the letter he should be able to see, were a blur. After some switching of lenses and inspecting Ryanís eyes the doctor told him that he had quite strong astigmatism and very mild myopia - both sounded like a severe disease, but the doctor explained what it meant, mainly that Ryan needed glasses and probably full-time due to the astigmatism. As Ryan had told the doctor that he was a tennis player, the doctor suggested that contact lenses would be good for sports. So he started measuring Ryanís eyes and told him to come again on the next day to fit the contacts.

Ryan left the examination room and was handed his prescription and told to go to an optician to purchase glasses. He felt terrible, so he called Timmy to tell him what had happened. His friend tried to cheer him up and offered to accompany him to the optician. Ryan agreed and they met at an optician. Ryan was amazed by the choice of glasses, but did not really know what to do. Timmy grabbed some frames and told him to try them in front of the mirror. Ryan thought he did not look too bad in glasses. He tried several frames and opted for black semi-rimless. Timmy agreed and Ryan was told to pick up his glasses in two hours. Together with Timmy he went to a small pub to wait for his glasses.

"So the doctor ordered contact lenses. Thatís great because in sports glasses wonít be good. I hope your eyes can tolerate contacts. My sister has very dry eyes, she tried contacts, but they never felt comfortable", Timmy said.

"Donít tell me any horror stories, itís bad enough that Iím getting glasses and that I have to put contacts into my eyes. Itís my only choice, I canít wear glasses playing tennis, can I? Itís far too dangerous", Ryan answered.

"Iím sure itíll be fine, youíll see soon, wonít you?" Timmy assured him.

Time passed quickly and soon they were able to pick up Ryanís glasses. He liked the way he looked in them and he also felt that they improved his vision. Walking around in glasses was a really strange feeling, the floor seemed to be moving and it seemed to Ryan that everyone was staring at him. Ryan went home and spent the evening alone enjoying clear view. On the next day Ryan went to the ophthalmologist and got his contacts. The doctor showed him how to insert and remove them and how to clean them. Ryan had some difficulties at the beginning, but he got used to the process really fast. His eyes showed a good reaction to the soft lenses and Ryan went home carrying the contacts supply for six months. At home Ryan removed the contacts and put on his glasses again. He did not mind wearing glasses and decided to wear the contacts only for tennis and glasses in his spare time.

In the morning Ryan woke up and looked around in his room without glasses. He was surprised how blurred everything suddenly was. Annoyed by the blur he put on his glasses. It was much better this way he thought. The doctor had explained that the astigmatism made his eyes rather dependent on the glasses once they were used to them. For the training he put in the contacts - he got them in without too much trouble, although it took quite long. He met Timmy on the way to the trainer and told him that everything seemed fine with the contacts. Their trainer also wanted to know everything and was glad that Ryan was healthy although he said that even contacts might lead to some disadvantage on the tennis court, especially on sand, but it would certainly be better than glasses. In the training Ryan was much better and could place the balls more precisely than in the last months. At the end of the day Ryan and Timmy played a small match and Ryan won. He was so glad that those two tiny lenses were able to improve his way of playing.

In the following weeks Timmy and Ryan had to train very hard because they were among the eight best players of the season and therefore allowed to participate in the Masters in Houston.

In this tournament both played their best tennis and met in the final. It was a long and very exciting match, which Ryan nearly won, but not without difficulties. In the fifth and decisive set Ryan was having trouble with one contact and had to take a time-out. He had to remove the contact lens and put it in again. So the whole tennis world knew about his vision, but Ryan did not really care. In the press conference Ryan appeared in glasses because his eye hurt a bit and he thought it was not a big deal. He had become used to wearing glasses, when he was not playing tennis and everyone had seen him removing the contact on the centre court. The comments he received were mainly positive, most people did not say anything. In the evening he went out to celebrate with Timmy, Marissa, their trainer, some other players and some fans he had got to know a bit better because they used to come to see as many of his matches as possible. To Ryanís surprise one of the other players wore glasses when they met in the pub.

"Hey Ritchie, I didnít know you had glasses", Ryan said.

"Yeah, I didnít know you did until today. Iíve been wearing glasses since I was 12. Then I switched to contacts when I turned 18 and decided to play tennis on the ATP-tour."

"Wow, thatís quite a long time. I only got these a couple of weeks ago. I didnít know I needed them until my results started to suck after the French Open."

"Youíre really self-confident about your glasses - thatís great. I never liked to wear them, but I had to. As I get older I wear them more often because Iíve finally found a style of frames which I think suits me."

"Yeah, I think they really suit you. I had a really hard time choosing the right frames, there are so many. But Timmy helped me pick these and he couldnít have done better, could he?"

"Yours look great, Timmy seems to be a fashion expert. So, whatís your prescription?"

"I donít know exactly, but I think I have the script somewhere in my pocket. Here you are."

"Wow, thatís a lot of astigmatism, the myopia is very mild. You should see mine, I have -6 in both eyes."

"I thought your glasses looked strong. Mine are more astigmatism than anything else."

"Yeah, right. I have seen glasses stronger than mine, but most people I know who have a prescription that high wear contact lenses."

"My I take a look at your glasses?" Ryan asked.

"Certainly, here you are, but donít go away, Iím blind without them."

"Iíll give you mine, okay. They wonít be of much help, but I want to see what you look like in my glasses."


Ryan and Ritchie traded glasses.

"Oh my, you are really blind. I mean, I can walk around without glasses without too many difficulties, but youíd be in real trouble without glasses, wouldnít you."

"I told you, I can hardly see you and you are not so far away. Can you give me my glasses back?"

"Of course, just let me take a look at you in mine. They suit you. Alright, here are your glasses."

"Thanks, thatís a relief, itís so annoying not being able to see properly."

"Thatís exactly what Iíve found out recently, but my vision is not that bad."

"True enough, but astigmatism makes you more dependent on glasses."

Two of the fans had seen them trading glasses and now joined their conversation. They wanted to know since when Ryan needed glasses. He explained how he found out. They had a really nice time and the evening passed extremely quickly. The reporters and Ryanís trainer had already gone home, but some fans, Timmy, Marissa, Ritchie and two other players were still there.

They decided to go to a club to celebrate the end of the yearís season. There was a club not far away and the fans had been there before. It was great fun in the club, there were many people and the music was a good mix of old and new songs. They enjoyed being on the dance floor and only stopped dancing to get something to drink. The club closed at 5 in the morning and they were among the last to leave. It had been a great night, which nobody wanted to end. One of the fans lived in the city and invited the players to his house. They accepted and had a great time over there until they got really tired. The fan invited them to stay as his house was not very close to the hotel and big enough to accommodate all of them. All of them accepted, relieved not to have to go anywhere anymore. The house had a huge attic full of old furniture and some beds on which they slept.

Ryan woke up at 3 in the afternoon, reached for his glasses and got up. The others were still asleep. Ryan went down to the kitchen to get something to drink. He had just found a glass and a bottle of coke, when felt that someone was staring at him. Ryan turned around and saw a girl of about 20 watching him.

"Youíre one of Joeís buddies who spent the night here, arenít you? Iím his sister Amanda, hi", she said.

"Hi, Iím Ryan, nice to meet you. I didnít know Joe had a sister, yet I donít know him that well", Ryan replied.

"Joe often invites people to spend the night here, I just didnít expect it today, but you never know, do you? You look familiar, though", Amanda told him.

"You may have seen me on TV, Iím a tennis player", Ryan gave a hint.

"I donít care much about tennis, but Joeís a big fan. Yeah, I might have seen you on TV, when Joe was watching or in the newspaper, but I think you looked different", Amanda explained.

"You know, they donít always pick the best photos for the newspaper, I think", Ryan smiled.

"No, I know that, but I think you look different because of your glasses", Amanda answered.

"Oh, of course, I donít wear them on the court. I havenít even had them for long; I just got them a couple of weeks ago. On the court I wear contacts, but most of the time I wear glasses", he replied.

"Forgive me, if this sounds too straight forward, but I think that glasses really suit you", Amanda felt her cheeks turning red.

"Itís okay, I donít mind. I like them and if you think so too, Iíll take it as a compliment", Ryan managed to say with weak knees.

"Letís go to the dining room, Iíll prepare something for you, if you like", Amanda offered.

"That sounds great", Ryan answered and went to the living room, curious what Amanda would prepare.

She came with a small tray carrying French toast, pancakes, syrup and fruit. It was perfect. While Ryan was eating, Amanda was watching him and Ryan enjoyed it. He hadnít felt like that in a very long time; he sensed that Amanda was special. After Ryan had finished and Amanda had put the dishes into the dishwasher, Ryan suggested taking a walk and she agreed without hesitation. Ryan only had to go to the attic again to his jacket and he had written a note for Timmy saying what where he was as Timmy and the others were still asleep.

Then they left the house and went to the forest which was nearby. Amanda and Ryan talked a lot and felt really attracted to each other. When they reached a small river, it started to rain, but they didnít care. Amanda said she knew a small cave where they would not get too wet. Inside the cave the light was dim, but at least it was dry. Ryan took off his glasses to wipe off the rain drops.

"Hey, may I do that for you, Iíd really love to", Amanda asked him.

"Of course, thatís so nice of you", Ryan handed her the glasses and she cleaned them with a handkerchief. Then Amanda placed them onto his face again. As her face sprang into focus again, Ryan was overwhelmed by her beauty and kissed her gently.