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September 19, 2015 2:22 pm  #1

Grand Slam

A small tennis story inspired by Serena Williams' attempted run to a Calendar Grand Slam this year. Although she didn't quite manage it, I wanted to see if I could try and imagine what that experience must be like for a tennis player to go through


She could hear the sounds of the crowd even in the locker room. The Arthur Ashe stadium was full to capacity for the upcoming match, which wouldn't be too unusual for a final if it was a Men's Final between the two giants of the game like Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer. But this match was different, the Girls Singles Final.

The first of the two players a young American girl called Robyn Worthington. She was the reason for the sell-out crowd, the raucous atmosphere. She was one match away from history. The first female junior tennis player to complete a Calendar Grand Slam.

She rested her head against the locker behind her as tears filled her eyes. She was supposed to enjoy this moment right, playing in the final of her home Grand Slam tournament. Instead she was so tired and so stressed out that she didn't feel anything other than utter indifference. Five minutes ago she ordered her family and her coach and her agent to just leave the locker room and give her some space, to try to get herhead together to complete this last fricking match.

She thought about Serena Williams who the previous year had just fallen short achieving the same goal she was about to attempt. The last person to achieve this singular feat was Steffi Graf in 1998. The only other player to do it as a junior was Stefan Edberg four years previously. What would make Robyn's achievement more special was the fact that her Grand Slam would be on four different surfaces; Plexicushion, Clay, Grass and Cement.

If I win the bloody game that is Robyn thought to herself as a pair of tears escaped from her eyes, smoothly moving down her cheeks in perfect sync.

Wiping her tears away she looked across at her opponent, a British player called Claire Tuttle. They had played before at Wimbledon in the quarter finals. Robyn had won in straight sets but it wasn't an easy victory by any means although the scoreline gave a different story.

I wish I could be you Robyn thought.You don't have to worry about history or a Calendar Grand Slam Claire's run to the final had been amazing, her semi off the charts. Her opponent in that match had been the Canadian No. 2 seed Carla Senior who had a meltdown in her second service game when she argued with the umpire. She won that game but something happened with her head and Claire steamrollered her way to a 6-2, 6-0 win.

The crowd had not been happy about Carla's defeat given that she was born just over the border in Niagra the city with the famous falls. When asked about her chances in the final Claire had simply said that she had a chance to win but she was just going to have fun and not stress too much.

The tournament referee came into the locker room and announced they were ready. Pulling her light brown hair into a ponytail, Robyn got up off her seat her legs like lead, and picking up her bag got ready to go.

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And I will lead them on a merry chase

September 19, 2015 3:19 pm  #2

Re: Grand Slam

"Game, Miss Worthington" the umpire called out. "Miss Worthington leads by 5 games to 4, first set".

Robyn sat down in her chair at the change of ends, a little happier for the first time that day.

All you have to do is hold serve she told herself. Claire had miss hit a drop shot at 30-30 in the previous game to make the score 30-40. Then Robyn had hit a perfect second serve to break Claire's serve for the first time. The crowd had roared their approval and Claire had seemed a little upset when she went to her chair.

The umpire called time and the two girls returned to their positions to resume their battle. Robyn served her first ball and whacked it over the net. It was too fast for Claire and it was an ace, 15-0. Second point was also an ace making it 30-0. On the third point Claire just reached the ball with her racket but hit it out, and it was 40-0.

The crowd exploded and Robyn had a set point. She asked a ball boy to throw her a towel and tried to compose herself. She looked down at the tennis ball in her hand and it started to shake. She bit her lip, bounced the ball three times onto the court raised it into the air, jumped to hit it with her racket and boom!.

There was a groan from the crowd as the ball hit the net. A fault. A nearby ball girl retrieved the ball and Robyn moved to serve again only to agonizingly clip the service line with her shoe.

"40-15" the umpire informed the crowd. Robyn couldn't look at her team in the stands, but she knew exactly what her coach was thinking at this point.

What a time to serve a double fault, Robyn he would have said to her. The next time she served she got it in open play, but Claire managed to get it back. Robyn hit a volley only for Claire to succeed in pulling off the drop shot she had missed the previous game, making it 40-30. The crowd booed as the shot went in, and although Robyn knew they were booing Claire it made her tense up again. The fleeting happiness of  five minutes ago had gone and a superb return of serve from Claire made the score 40-40.

Robyn went back to her chair for a swig of water. Out of the corner of her eye, she spied her coach and his face was like granite. She put her water down and returned to the service line, wiping a stray tear as she did so.

Don't blow it. she told herself. Win this BLOODY GAME But Claire won the next point giving her advantage. Robyn felt her stress level spike again. If she lost this next point it would mean the scores would be level at 5 games apiece, and Robyn would have to win two more perishing games to win the set.

Concentrate you idiot!! she scolded. She served and the rally started but after five strokes Robyn hit the net.

"Game Miss Tuttle" the umpire announced. "Five games all"

Security will run you down hard
And I will lead them on a merry chase
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September 23, 2015 10:36 am  #3

Re: Grand Slam

Twenty minutes later Robyn's situation had not improved. Her opponent had won four straight games and if she won this next game, she would be a set and a break ahead and Robyn would be in real trouble.

She already had a code violation in the set for sending her racket into the sidewall at deuce on her last service game. The score in the third game of this second set stood at 30-15 in Claire's favour.

Robyn moved into position at her side of the net, part of her wanting this to be over, to give her a release from the horrendous pressure she was feeling. Part of this was because on the senior circuit you had multiple chances to win a calendar grand slam. As a junior you got one chance and that was it.

She closed her eyes for a second as Claire prepared to serve. Robyn managed to get it back, but Claire hit a volley close to the net and the acute angle meant that Robyn hit the net winning Claire the point.

Robyn exploded with all the force of a volcano erupting fire and ash. F-words spewed forth in a torrent as she verbally abused herself over the error, but worse was to come.

"Code Violation, verbal abuse. Point Penalty Miss Worthington." the umpire announced to loud boos from the crowd. "Game Miss Tuttle."

Robyn ground her teeth together in an vain effort to stop the tears flooding into her eyes. She walked to her chair her lip wobbling uncontrollably and sat down as one tear then another hit her black tennis dress.

She recalled the moment before the match, her agent discussing various deals with her parents and giving her a 'make sure you try your best look. She also remembered the lyrics to her favourite song 'Can't Break Down' by the Irish singer Sinead Quinn.

I'm so damn frustrated, Losing breath and now I'm shaking, Got to keep myself from breaking down, Someone get me out.

However no-one could get her out but herself. She got up out of her chair as the umpire called time still reciting the lyrics to herself as she prepared herself to serve. Claire was not going to do to her what she did to Carla and steamroller her and deny her, her moment of glory. She served her first ball and two and a half minutes later was on the scoreboard in the second set 3-1

Security will run you down hard
And I will lead them on a merry chase
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October 1, 2015 2:08 pm  #4

Re: Grand Slam

"Six games all tiebreak". The umpire announced. Somehow Robyn was still in this match and the Arthur Ashe stadium still had it's roof although that might change if Robyn won this particular contest. From 1-3 down she'd managed to fight back to 5-4 only for her opponent to rally winning the next two games.

'Catch me if you can her opponent seemed to be telling her. Robyn had won the next to take them into the tiebreak. This was it, if she wanted to win this match and make history she had to get ahead in this next game and fast.

She won the first point of the tie break, but Claire won the next two on her serve putting her in front.

'Don't panic!' Robyn told herself fiercely. She won the next three points putting her 4-2 ahead, but a misplaced return meant Claire won the next making it 4-3.

'No you don't' Robyn silently berated as she felt her eyes fill with tears again. 'You are not falling on me'. She blinked them back and won the next two points. She was home free, all she needed to do now was win the next point and she had the set. But Claire hadn't finished yet. She sent down two aces and the score was now 6-5.

It was Robyn's serve next and when she hit Claire's return the line judge called the ball out, making the score 6-6, spiking her emotions once more. The line judge was wrong, she was wrong!!. She requested a challenge and the Hawkeye system showed the ball was in.

"Game, second set Miss Worthington." The umpire called

Security will run you down hard
And I will lead them on a merry chase
     Thread Starter

October 20, 2015 9:45 am  #5

Re: Grand Slam

After winning the second set tie break, Robyn had managed to get a second wind. In this third and final set she'd broken her opponents serve and managed to hold her own up until this point. The score was 5-3 in her favour and she was about to serve for the match, for history and maybe immortality.

"Quiet please, players are ready." The umpire called over the crowd.

Robyn got into position behind her service line, and sent the ball into play. An ace!


The next ball was also an ace, the score now 30-0. However Claire was about to prove that two points from defeat she wasn't for cracking just yet. Although she had allowed herself to dip in the beginning of the set her fighting qualities were coming back. She sent the third and fourth balls back to level the scores at 30-30

With a pounding heart and trembling wrist Robyn sent a fifth ball to Claire who sent it back. Robyn managed to send it back and won the point when Claire hit the net. 40-30

This was it. Match Point. The end of an incredible journey or so Robyn hoped. She raised her arm for the sixth and hopefully final time and wacked the ball to the far end of the court.

She didn't hear the umpire call out the score, just a wall of sound that exploded from every corner of the stadium. She collapsed onto the court her body racking with sobs of relief. She'd done it, the Calendar Grand Slam.

Her opponent was waiting for her on the other side of the net. Both girls hugged each other tears freefalling down their cheeks. Robyn out of relief and Claire partly through disappointment but also happy that her opponent had managed her historic achievement.

After the emotional trophy ceremony Robyn was feeling very dehydrated from crying so much. She could hardly speak in the press conference afterwards. It was hard for her to be happy about what she had achieved such was the mental exhaustion she had had to suffer over the long months of that year. She just said she was glad it was over and looking forward to getting some time away from the tennis court.

Security will run you down hard
And I will lead them on a merry chase
     Thread Starter

October 20, 2015 10:11 am  #6

Re: Grand Slam

Her rest had to wait a little bit longer. The next day was the trophy parade for the press, which in Robyn's case took place on Liberty Island along with her junior grand slam trophies. All four of them. The original plan was to go to the Empire State Building but the Men's champion Rafael Nadal had gone there, Maria Sharapova the Women's champion had gone to Central Park and Finlay Morris the Boys champion had booked the Chrysler Building. So Liberty Island it had to be

It was quite an entourage that went to the Island that day, one security member for each trophy plus two more to hold the crowds back. After the photographs it was time for the autographs. Robyn signed so many and had taken so many photographs that after two hours she was just spent.

On her way back to the boat she saw Claire walking round and stopped to talk.

"The traditional winners photocall." she explained. "How about you."

"I'm just climbing the statue." Claire told her. "I've always wanted to see the view. This afternoon I'm off to see The Phantom Of The Opera."

Robyn felt envious. She had more media commitments that day, not to mention the many Twitter messages she had to respond to. A Broadway show seemed so much better somehow. In the excitement of her victory, her defeated opponent had become almost an afterthought.

"What are you doing next year?" Claire asked. "Moving to the senior tour". Robyn nodded.

"Only way is up right."

"I'm staying in the juniors another year." Claire explained. "I want to emulate Heather and Laura and win a junior major."

"Good luck." Robyn said shaking her hand. As the girl's parted Robyn asked her what her music choice had been. Lots of the girls on the junior circuit had debated this issue, but nobody had ever taken the easy way out and actually asked.

"McFly." Claire replied. "My best friend is a fan, so I kind of became one by default". Robyn's manager was glaring at her once again so she let Claire go and got on her boat


Security will run you down hard
And I will lead them on a merry chase
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