On Center Court
“Nike or Adidas?”
“What happened to Lulu Lemon?”
“They don’t have deep enough pockets. It’s either Nike or Adidas.”
“I want Lulu Lemon.”
My brother rolled his eyes. “What’s your second choice?”
“You have to be reasonable, baby girl,” dad chimed in. “Tennis is not a core market for Lulu Lemon.”
“Well maybe Amanda can turn it into a core market for them,” mom offered.
“We can always go back to Lulu Lemon,” my brother piped in again. “But if we say no to Nike or Adidas now, they may not give us a second chance later. Either way Amanda, I need an answer before you leave in the morning.”
Welcome to my world. This is typical dinner conversation at my house. It’s been this way since September. That’s when I won the U.S. Open tennis championship. I was fifteen, making me the youngest woman to win the Grand Slam title. Overnight, I became a global brand. Sports Illustrated put me on their cover. They said I play better than Maria Sharapova, I’m more photogenic than Anna Kournikova, and I’m set to break more records than Steffi Graff.
It was odd to see pictures of myself next to pictures of these household names. It’s what I always expected would happen, but I was not prepared for how I would feel as it happened. I studied each of our pictures in the Sports Illustrated article, looking for a common trait or feature that would bond us as champions. We are all tall and blond, but otherwise look nothing alike. My coach says it’s what’s inside a champion that destines them for greatness. It’s the ability to focus, to persevere, and to never lose faith in yourself. This is the tipping point for me. I can either live up to expectations and also become a household name, or I can buckle under the pressure and be a one hit wonder.
Most people seem to be leaning on the side of my success because everyone wants to meet with me now – sponsors, journalists, TV talk shows, radio talk shows, and even Chase Remington. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Chase is the lead on House Drama. In other words, he’s the biggest name in TV right now.
We’ll get to Chase in a bit – back to my family. My brother dropped out of college soon after the U.S. Open. My parents suggested it. He was failing almost every class.
“The sponsorships are pouring in and we need someone to focus on them,” dad explained.
“Why pay a stranger when we can keep it in the family?” mom reasoned.
Whatever. I don’t have any issues with my brother being on the payroll. But then he gave himself the fancy title of “Director of Global Sponsorship Management”. Now I want him to work for his title, just like I have to work for mine – which is why I’m pushing for Lulu Lemon.
My agent says it’s important for me to be direct about the things that I want. “The less room there is for a misunderstanding, the better, especially now that everyone wants to be associated with the Amanda Price brand.”
He’s not exaggerating either. I’ve become that popular. I’m not showing off – just being honest. I have almost a million followers on Twitter. Six months ago, I maybe had five thousand. People recognize me now. Strangers stop to talk to me, to take a picture with me, or to shake my hand. Some keep their distance and just point at me.
It’s a weird existence, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it – just as I got used to playing tennis in front of a crowd. I think I was ten when I played my first exhibition game. It was claustrophobic. I couldn’t concentrate. And there was no way to escape everyone’s stare. But now I love the energy of the spectators. It doesn’t even matter if they’re rooting for me or against me. All that matters is that they’re watching me. I play my best when everyone is watching. I get very focused. This way no one can intimidate me. I don’t even see the player on the other side as a person. I see them as just an opponent I need to beat.
I’m going to be training harder than ever for the Australian Open in January. Starting in November, I’ll be playing tennis six hours a day, six days a week. There will be no time for school so I’ll be getting a full-time tutor. I think I can win the Australian Open. It won’t be record-breaking because I turned sixteen two days after the U.S. Open, but it will boost my ranking. I’ll be tied with Martina Hingis as the youngest winner.
My friends are sad to see me go. I’m sad too, but we still have another couple of weeks. And honestly, I don’t know how much longer I could have hung out with them. Our lives are so different. Everything I do is planned and monitored – from what I eat, how much I sleep, and even how I rest my body. Meanwhile, my friends are out all night, experimenting with sex, drugs and alcohol. All I’m experimenting with are forehand slices and backhand drop shots.
“You don’t need to experiment,” my coach tells me when I complain that I’m missing out on my teenage years. “People experiment when they don’t know what they want to do with their lives. You’re destined for tennis greatness. You’re ahead of the pack. You’re not missing anything.” If my mom is around when he gives me his pep talk, she typically chimes in with her “you’re so blessed, Amanda. God has given you such a gift.”
I guess she’s right. It’s a lot of work, but I like the attention. And I’ve got more money in the bank than many families will ever make in a lifetime. I travel to interesting locations, I meet celebrities (like Chase), I’m invited to all kinds of exclusive parties (most of which I don’t get to go to), and I get a ton of free stuff. As if all that is not enough, I still love playing tennis. I would play without all the perks.
The only thing I think I’m really missing out on is the whole boy-dating-sex thing. My friends are way past making out. The girls are getting felt up and fingered. Some have even given a blowjob, and some have had their boyfriends go down on them. Me? I’ve kissed exactly one boy, and I barely even opened my mouth.
Now let’s talk about Chase. His agent called my agent a couple of weeks ago to see if we could meet. It was totally out of the blue. I was beside myself. I literally jumped up and down when my agent told me. My friends couldn’t stop screaming when I called to tell them.
My publicist and parents were not as thrilled. Though Chase is only a year older than me, he already has a reputation for partying a little too hard. Still, no one forbid us from meeting. I don’t think anyone in my camp realized that the meeting would be a covert operation with decoy cars and last minute venue changes – all so Chase could lose the paparazzi. It was really kind of insane and over the top, but his manager felt it was necessary and my publicist was pleased because she didn’t want me to be seen with Chase. She thinks it’s bad for my image. I’m sixteen. Judging by what my friends are doing, I think my image can withstand a picture of me kissing the hottest TV star in the world, or rather of him kissing me.
Anyway, we ended up on some private property in Malibu. There were a lot of us as part of this “we”. Chase has quite the entourage – his manager, four personal assistants, three bodyguards, a couple of friends, and a few other people who seemed to just be hanging around, with no real duty to fulfill. Most of these people stayed with us for the entirety of our date, if you can even call it a date.
We were never alone, not even when dinner was served on the terrace. A table for two was set up in the center of the terrace, with candles and red rose petals everywhere. Again it was over the top, but it was romantic. Just as we sat down, Chase’s manager and bodyguards pulled up their own tables and chairs within earshot of us. Talk about awkward. I spent most of the time talking to Chase’s manager and Chase spent most of the time texting. Occasionally he would laugh at something I said or nod in agreement when I described my grueling schedule. Though there wasn’t a whole lot of chemistry between us, I was still holding out hope for a kiss at the end of the night, but the only goodnight kiss I got was on the cheek.
I went out with Chase again a couple of nights ago. I was surprised to get his text after our initial meeting, but I figured he must have liked me more than he let on. We watched a movie in someone’s private theater. Again his entourage did not leave us alone. So once more, I was left with a kiss on the cheek and a hug at the end of the night. But the paparazzi got wind of this date. Pictures of Chase walking me to my front door are everywhere. My publicist is furious. She thinks Chase’s team tipped off the paparazzi and that’s why they were waiting at my house.
“Of course they want Chase to be seen with you. You’re the It Girl of tennis. You have the face of an angel. If someone as sweet and wholesome as you can be friends with a shithead like him, then he really can’t be that bad. That’s what those fuckers want the public to think. And that’s exactly why I didn’t want you to be seen with him. I don’t want people to think you’re an irresponsible a-hole like him. It can work both ways you know.”
She’s hired the best PR firm in New York to help her “clean up this mess.”
“You’re both trending on Twitter,” my brother announced when the pictures first surfaced.
“Congratulations baby girl,” my dad laughed, looking over my brother’s shoulder at the iPad. “You’re now officially part of pop culture.”
“Oh honey, don’t get mixed up with that kind of boy,” my mom pleaded with concern.
She has no cause for worry. Though losing my virginity to a TV heartthrob would make for a great story, I’ve got an even bigger story to tell right now. And I don’t want any distractions. I think I’m going to be number one this season. I can just feel it. So I need to stay focused on tennis. And truth be told, Chase was better to look at than he was to hang out with. He barely spoke. He was rude and awkward actually, which came as a total shock since he plays such a cool kid on House Drama.
“Enjoy this crazy ride while you can,” dad told me after dinner tonight. “This is your life, baby girl. And life is ultimately a series of moments and experiences. You’re soon going to experience being the best tennis player in the world. I can’t imagine anything better than that. But it’s not going to last forever, so enjoy every minute of it.”
My father is a wise man. It’s a steep hill. One small slip can send you spiraling down. I’ve seen it happen to lots of players. It may happen to me too someday, but for now, my place is on center court. I am certain of it. The Australian Open is around the corner. I look forward to the fans calling my name. And to seeing which celebrities ask for seats in my boxTweet