General Buzz, Heidi, Miscellany, Uncategorized

I’m Sorry But I Fell in Love With You

Somewhere between Lake Wales and Vero Beach, Florida, yesterday, sitting in my car, pulled off to the side of highway 60, in a cow pasture, lost on the way home from Miami, I took out my phone and with tears streaming down my face I confessed to myself and to someone-maybe it was her, maybe someone else (I’m not sure because everyone wears so many hats these days on social media)-what I finally realized I was never going to be able to say to Heidi El Tabakh. “I love you, Heidi.”

That I have been in love with her since the minute I first saw her.

Because dunce that I am I finally realized I have no choice but to accept the inescapable reality that she is already in love with someone. Someone else.

Despite having an uneasy Spidey sense about it for months, and promising myself that I wouldn’t, despite knowing better, I went again to the Miami Open to see for myself. Because like any good barrister I am real curious. And I was somehow hoping I’d gotten it wrong. That maybe there really wasn’t anyone else. But I am pretty sure there was. I did see her, briefly, when she suddenly came in and sat down in the stands at one match I was watching. She looked too pretty not to be meeting someone.

I looked away, heartbroken. And I knew she had to be there for whoever it was she had her heart set on. And I didn’t want to see it, and I started to tremble and I wanted to run as far and fast as possible. And disappear. And then the changeover came and I stumbled and left and ran. And I couldn’t sleep at my hotel that night and the next day I was such a wreck that I got lost driving home. And I ended up in that cow pasture half way between Lake Wales and Vero Beach. I’d seen her play four years ago in Vero.

And in that desolate spot, crying, my clothes soaked with tears, the last tendrils of my dreams of meeting with her, talking with her, listening to her, sharing with her, being there for her, supporting and watching her achieve her dreams, laughing with her, gazing into her eyes, getting her to smile and melting with her, all ebbing away by the second, I wanted to tell her how I felt about her. At least one time. So that she might really see it. Not that it would matter to her.

And so I did. Tell her. Tell someone. Probably not her. But someone. Someone who liked my picture of her. And me. And who seems a little bit like her. So maybe I did tell her. I hope I did. Before she gets married, if she is engaged. Just so she knows. Just so she knows how much she means to me and how much I love her.

And then after I sent my message, I died. My dreams.

Wise men say only fools rush in

But I can’t help falling in love with you

Shall I stay?

Would it be a sin

If I can’t help falling in love with you?

Like a river flows surely to the sea

Darling so it goes

Some things are meant to be

Take my hand, take my whole life too

For I can’t help falling in love with you

Like a river flows surely to the sea

Darling so it goes

Some things are meant to be

Take my hand, take my whole life too

For I can’t help falling in love with you

For I can’t help falling in love with you

– Can’t Help Falling in Love with You

Elvis Presley

General Buzz, Miscellany, Uncategorized

A Year

One of the dumbest of clichés, but I’ll say it anyway. What a difference a year makes.

One year ago, tonight, more or less, I was making an unbelieveably crazy, romantic, and undoutedly foolhardy once in a lifetime odyssey. The kind you don’t think about about–you just do. The kind of odyssey your friends call ‘stupid’ and ‘moronic’.

Because they don’t understand. They don’t get it. They never had a dream girl.

Well, I never met her. Not then. Not with any of the many chances I had through the years either. She was a star that just burned too bright to touch. And then it was too late.

And, now, one year later, I’m pretty sure she has a significant other. A husband, or fiance, or steady boyfriend. I think the pessimist in me, or maybe it’s the realist, is starting to uderstand that she did all along. For years. And that I misread everything as much as it were possible if I was looking at a negative instead of a photo. Or if not, that’s the impression she wants to give to people like me. People who are too helpless to do anything but fall in love with her.

And so I sit in my lonely hotel room in Miami again, having come to the Miami Open to make what will undoubtedly be a disastrously failed attempt to forget her and move on with my life. Find someone new.

And it was horrible. And she was there. At the end. As I was leaving. And I couldn’t even look at her. Because I knew. I think she was there to see him. And his family. And I didn’t want to hear it. Because it would be worse than dying. And it was anyway. It was worse than dying.

And I don’t want anyone new in my head. In my dreams. I don’t want anyone else in there.

I want to go back. I want to run after her stupidly again. Because even though I believe in my heart now that she is married, and that all I was to her was a indiscriminate click on her photos, someone she never knew or cared about, I won’t ever be able to forget her. In a very private place I keep deep inside my heart, she was and will always be The Girl. Even if she’s someone else’s. And that is the saddest thing I can think of, because that’s the crushing reality of life.


General Buzz, Miscellany, Uncategorized

Completely Broken

The only thing I truly dreaded, was the the reality that she was someone else’s.

I think I avoided that reality for so long because I ….because….because I fell in love with her. And I didn’t want my heart to shatter into a billion pieces.

And that’s just what happened. Today, by accident, or maybe it was fate, or by some design, I found it. Seeing her there, next to him, happy, in that picture….the ‘family unit’. My heart broke. Broke into so many pieces.

Every morning I’ve tried to prepare for it, imagining how I might find out. What I might find out.

Seven years of helplessly, day by day, falling madly, totally, head over heels in love with her. Trying to learn whatever I could about her. And to find out in a matter of seconds. To see them, together, with the family, in a couples pose. It hurts more than words…

And in that instant, my world ended. It’s not funny. It’s not a dumb little crush. It’s cold, and cruel to make fun of someone who feels hurt because they dared to like someone. Had the courage to like someone, and to express it. I am a writer, not a talker. This is how I communicate. Some of us are painfully shy and self conscious and simply can’t find any other way.

My heart is broken.

I know you never cared who I was or that I existed. But I loved you. I dreamed of you, and I loved you. But you knew. Because your friends knew, and because whenever I tried to express how I felt, or find ways to tell you, or was hurt if I thought you simply didn’t care, you made fun, or teased, tried to get me not to like you, so I’d go away. And not be a bother to you.

Well, even though it took me awhile to catch on, you can see that I finally found what you wanted me to see. Your…family. So I get it now.

Well I’m sorry. I’m sorry I forced you to that. That makes me feel sick inside, and I’m sorry.

So no more dreams. No more Miamis. No more Eleventh Hour Don Quixote quests. I got the message.

The most painful, horrible thing is, I will never ever be able to forget your face. You’ll be blissfully happy in your good and wonderful life and I’ll be miserable and stuck in love with you forever.

Because I am not a talker.

Thinking about all of the chances I had to say something to you. Just once. Just a minute or two with you. I would have been thrilled.

But I am not a talker.

So it’s a horrible, horrible fate. 💔 😢😢😢

And I’m sorry it was abrupt, and I’m sorry to take back those memories, but I don’t want to share them with anyone else. Not your marketing friend, or your tennis friends, or your modeling friends, or clients or whoever. An, not even your new family. They were for you. Not all of the people you were or are influencing. Especially if that’s all they meant to you.

So goodbye. And good luck.

Even though you don’t understand how I feel about you, that’s ok. Maybe someday, when you’re old and grey, you will.

I hope you have a wonderful, wonderful life.

General Buzz, Miscellany, Uncategorized

What She Means

Someone asked recently why I was so apathetic lately about tennis. I guess I don’t watch much anymore on television, or talk about it, or go to see many tournaments in person, and my friend started noticing. Mainly because he doesn’t have anybody to joke around with at the tournaments, I guess.

As for me, and my disinterest as of late, I have thought hard about it and decided that there is a difference between merely watching tennis and playing it your whole life, which can be a pursuit and a passion in and of itself, and in having the lust for the sport to indiscriminately love watching any player or any match. Between being more than casually interested in it, following it, knowing who the players are, the strengths and weaknesses of their games, their career statistics…and in being completely, totally paralyzed the twenty-four hours before her match, unable to eat, think, concentrate, work, function…until she’s done, win or lose. You absorb every loss, exult contagiously in each win, you laugh with her, you cry with her, you take pride in her accomplishments to the extent that you are darn sure there’s no one on the planet who knows more about her, and that one teeny tiny tweak that could make her a champion, than you. When nobody can possibly tell you that she’s not going to make it to Number One.

When you dream about simply having a moment–one moment–with her, to yourself, away from the world. To give her the love that has grown, inside your heart, all of these years, cheering her.

This is what she has come to mean to you.

This is the void she leaves.

General Buzz, Miscellany, Uncategorized

I Will Always…

Another Valentine’s Day. Another sad and and lonely Valentine’s Day. Alone.

I have this dream. She’s a special girl, smart and funny and beautiful and sensitive. She’s out there somewhere. I’m pretty sure she’s somebody else’s dream. I still dream about her, though, pretending she likes me, every day. And I hope she’s happy. I still like to think of her as my Valentine.

Her name doesn’t matter. Not to anyone but me, anyway, because she doesn’t know who I am. Or care. Realizing that makes me real sad.

But that doesn’t matter. I’m not very important. And stuff like that doesn’t matter in dreams.

It was easy to fall in love with her.
I hope that wherever she is, she and whoever she finds special enough to spend it with have the happiest of Valentine’s Days.

General Buzz, Miscellany, Tournament Match Reports, Uncategorized

Time Again

Recently I caught a few days of the first two women’s United States Tennis Association Pro Circuit tournaments of the 2018 season, the DME Sports Women’s Tennis Championship at Daytona Beach, and the National Campus Pro Tennis Classic at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Florida, both $25,000 events played on Har Tru (green clay).

Haven’t been feeling well lately but spending a few days following the women pros as they begin their season is always fun. After all of the years, seeing so many of the players each trip, it just about feels like an annual visit with family. Seeing the grind of life on the Pro Circuit and the struggles of the players up close, you want them all to succeed and it’s impossible to take sides. I guess that’s why I really enjoy the tennis at the ITF level as much and probably a whole lot more than when I’ve gone to the bigger WTA tournaments. There’re just so many amazing and poignant personal stories that can be told, all heroic, all unique.

Maybe the best part is chatting with fellow fans. They’ll engage about anything, anyone, any player, any match, any tournament, any point… You give, and you get in this fashion, and the days at the court can pass in a flash.

In 2018’s editions of the Daytona and Orlado events, held the weeks of January 8 and January 15, respectively, I was able to track down a couple players I hadn’t had a chance to see previously (Ayla Aksu, Reka-Luca Jani) as well as many old faves, including cancer survivor Alisa Kleybanova. That was a real treat.

It hardly seems fair that another year of tennis in central Florida is gone already. I guess I’ll be hoping 2019 comes around soon!

General Buzz, Heidi, Miscellany, Uncategorized


I’ll bet it never occurred to yo–to her. When I ‘liked’ this pic a week or so ago. This one…

Somewhere cold ❄️☃

A post shared by @ heidelzz on

I was thinking of her.

Three, um, no, four years ago. I was cold then, too. And she was standing next to me, so close, yet as far away as ever. For so long, it seemed, yet we never spoke. Never said a word. And after she left, I took out my phone and posted a message to my friends. About how cold it was in Daytona. And how standing next to her made me feel so much warmer.

General Buzz, Miscellany, Tournament Match Reports

The Art of Don Quixote-ing

This was dumb.

There are stupid ideas, and then, there are the ones you will remember when you are eighty-five. When you can’t remember whether you tied your shoes, or what color your car is, or who passed you the salt, you’ll remember the crazy dumbass things you did in the name of love.

For That Girl. The special one. The one you will never ever be able to forget.

I came here to Miami on that mythical wing and prayer on a hopeless eleventh hour quest to meet the girl of my dreams. I was stupid enough to think that I might actually find her here. It is one of the biggest tennis tournaments in the world, after all and she is, well, you know…

Oh, she was in town alright. Looking amazing. Like an angel. Basking in celebrity and collecting the phone numbers of eager admirers lining up to date her, I imagine. I guess I should have known. Expected that. She must attract that kind of attention from suitors whenever she walks into a room. Important people. Glamourous people. The people she must surely be interested in spending her time with. She’s special in that way, destined for greatness. She’s that kind of Girl.

It hurts to realize I’m just not that kind of guy.

Coming here was dumb. Heartbreaking.

I never thought that getting over a dream could be so tough.

General Buzz, Miscellany, Uncategorized


This is a story I wrote about “almost” happening to meet Heidi El Tabakh. The names were changed to protect the innocent, but the events, such as they were, really happened as I have described them. From my perspective. I’m sure she would have no clue who I am, but to me, she was the center of the Universe, warmer than a ray of sunshine, better than everything good.

I wrote this because, on the very remote chance that she would ever read these words, I wanted her to know that just by being there, by being an inspiration, she made a difference in my life. Made it better. Made me a better person when our paths intersected those on those few occasions. So thank you, dearly, Heidi.


There is a Girl
in every Boy’s Life
that he will never forget….



I think about her a lot.

In just about every hour of every day. Even when I am asleep, in my dreams.

I try not to sometimes. Because of the heartbreak that comes with the thought of her and the glamorous circles in which she travels. I imagine that people like me are toejam to people like her.

But the reality is it is the thought of her that makes me feel better. At least in those dreams, while I am sleeping, I can pretend that I am good enough to be with her.



At precisely two-thirty-seven P.M., the chair umpire, Beatriz Ferreira, called another drop shot winner good. A few in the crowd of about fifty, give or take, laughed. The rest of us choked back some disgusted grunts or whistles. Christ-in-a-manger, Eichmann’s game was annoying. By my estimate, that was about her two hundred and ninety-third drop shot of the match.

I remember, it was Bea in the chair, because of the distinctive cadence in her voice, one that seemed like it had to be cultivated by years of schooling in one of those British prep academies for girls. The ones where the students all wear the same plaid skirts and starched white blouses and look indistinguishable from one another.

I got curious after falling in love with the strangely hypnotic rhythm of her voice at the Sony Open down in Miami one year. I always went to the first week of the Sony, each March. Spending a week in that paradise was like a Rite of Passage each Spring for me. At least, it was a way I could escape the grind of a job I hated for a few days each year. Anyway, I’d Googled Bea after happening to catch her name on a tennis match broadcast on television, and learned that she was Brazilian, but the voice that came out of her sounded, to me anyway, as British as Moneypenny’s.

“Forty-Fif-TeYEN.” Another drop shot.

It was a chilly sixty degree day, even in the January Florida sun, and I’d come to watch the rising stars who played the United States Tennis Association’s Pro Circuit at a $25,000 event in Port St. Lucie, on Florida’s south central east coast. The “Treasure Coast.” Only, today, there was nothing so rich and luxurious and golden about sitting on my hands in sixty degree weather in shorts and a t-shirt on chilly aluminum bleachers while my teeth chattered. But the scritchy scratchy sound of the players’ feet fluttering on the green clay was warm and inviting, and I was starting to wish I’d brought my racquets.

January in Florida meant professional tennis held locally in Florida, and this year, there were three Pro Circuit events held on successive weeks along Florida’s east coast, at Vero Beach, Port St. Lucie, and Daytona Beach. I’d made arrangements to take time off of work to catch a few odd days of the tennis each week, here and there, as following and writing about the professional game was somewhat of a hobby for me.

Angela Eichmann, of Germany, was serving, trying to level her quarterfinal match at a set apiece after nearly two hours of play on the Har Tru on “Stadium Court”, the one normally known as “Court 4” at Tesoro Club. Her first name didn’t sound like its Americanized counterpart, either. I knew that from having seen her play a few times previously, in other tournaments. The ‘g’ was hard, so it sounded like “ON-gay-la.” For some stupid reason, I liked that better than “ANJ-e-la.”

Her mop of blond hair bobbed up and down as she bounced the ball repeatedly, doing her best impression of Djokovic, and trying to catch her breath in between serves. An occasional “YAAAAAASSS!” emanated from deep within her, somewhere, after each of those triumphant drop shots of hers, really throaty too, like some sort of demon was possessing her. It wouldn’t have surprised me, either. No one could try that many drop shots in a match and claim to be sane.

At the other end of the court, Leila Niazy stood waiting. I had to hand it to her, she looked a lot more composed than I was.

“C’mon, Leila!” My flinty shout broke the crisp, dry afternoon air and I don’t honestly know why I yelled it. Maybe I felt some overwhelming sense of offendedness at how Eichmann was managing to construct and win the vast majority of her points. Or maybe it was because of all of those annoying “YAAAAAASSS!”s ON-gay-la was screaming. Or maybe it was something else. Okay, it was something else.

Like any red-blooded American male, I was totally head-over-heels in love with Leila. Well, you, know, “smitten”, I guess, would be a better word, since I didn’t actually know her and she definitely didn’t know me from Adam. To my utter dismay, she wouldn’t have been able to pick me out of a crowd if I’d been on fire.

But I could recite by heart enough of the superficially important stuff about her. The lovely Leila stretched five feet eleven inches, head to toe, hailed originally from Egypt, though she’d lived in the U.S. since she was a child, had gotten her decidedly un-Egyptian name from her Mother, who had a love of Western films, and had the most bewitching dark brown eyes I’d ever seen. Not to mention a completely beguiling smile with unapologetically aligned, snow-white teeth that made a perfect contrast to her dark, golden brown skin which you might dare call ‘camel-colored’ in a less politically correct day and time. Topping all of this off was a mane of dark brown hair that would have made Diana Prince turn green with envy. Leila was indeed tennis’ equivalent of Wonder Woman. She was ethereally pretty, and I couldn’t imagine a heart she wouldn’t make skip a beat.

The first time I ever saw her play, the first thing I noticed about her, from half a court away, was her magnetic doe eyes, and when I’d managed to catch my breath, I managed to shoot about fifteen minutes of her match that day, literally falling in love with her through the lens of my camera. From the first time I saw her play I just couldn’t take my eyes off of her.

I don’t mean to suggest that I didn’t notice, along the way, the other things, the important things that were open and obvious to an observer in my position. That she was an excellent player, for example, with picturesque, powerful groundstrokes and a strong serve, or that she was spirited, and sometimes a little temperamental for her own good on the court. Kind of like me. The temperamental part. I liked that. And it all made me wonder if she was as wonderful on the inside as she seemed to be to be on the outside. I certainly hoped it to be the case.

I guess Leila heard me cheering because she glanced over as she stepped considerably inside the baseline to return serve, with just the faintest hint of a crease in the corners of her mouth that was trying hard not to be a smile. And in that millisecond, I got more nervous than I’ve been in my life, as though whatever I did next was going to cause some major catastrophe. The way a schoolboy sometimes gets when he is around a girl that he likes. I wondered if she could tell.


From a court and a half away, by my reckoning, the score is now 15-30. It is hard to tell. I’ve been taking a lot of pictures today.

Leila is struggling. She started well enough, breaking Eichmann twice in the first set to take a seemingly comfortable 4-2 lead, imposing her much more powerful game and bombarding her opponent with a number of aces and service winners. But a series of wild returns coupled with a loose serve game knots this contest at 4 games all, shifting the momentum of the match, and, before you know it, Leila has lost the first set 4 games to 6 to the Drop Shot Queen.

A few more sketchy, hard fought serve games and Leila is on the ropes, down a break and serving at 2-4. Eichmann, to her credit, has figured out a strategy to employ against the taller Niazy, whose frustration at moving forward to repeatedly chase down Eichmann’s forehand drop shots is showing.

It will be a long way back today, in the windy and drab, chill and gloom of early January on Florida’s Treasure Coast.

THWACK! A thunderous backhand winner down the line and Leila draws even at 30-all in the Decisive Seventh Game of set two.

Leila’s next serve bounces off the tape, and dribbles aimlessly off the court and toward the stands where a handful of hearty spectators–mostly coaches and fellow players, and…me…sit watching. I’ve driven to Vero for the second time this week, some fifty miles each way, to see Leila play, and on this cold, wet Tuesday, I’d say I am about the only one who isn’t a player, coach or USTA official in attendance.

Eichmann’s coach starts toward the still rolling ball and then pauses, noticing that it is coming ever closer to me, at the other end of the bleachers. Or maybe it is that he has seen me taking an undeniable interest in Leila with my camera and my cheers. At any rate, he nods and I take it as tacit approval to be chivalrous, Leila’s Knight-in-Shining-Armor, at least for a moment, and retrieve her wayward serve for her, since there are no ballboys or ballgirls in an economizing $25K such as this.

Now, here is where it gets ugly, and fuzzy, and maybe that’s because I have tried to block out what can only be described as the colossal fuck-up that comes next. As I recall, I think what happens is that I walk over to the edge of the court, which as luck would have it has no fence and is totally open on the side, and, without thinking, casually roll the ball back to her end of the court, as would an actual, real, trained ballboy, but this one happens to carom off of a post and into play just as she is about to go into her service motion.

For about a second–and only a second–I feel gallant, like a hero, doing something nice for her, until I realize with horror that both Eichmann and the umpire are holding up their hands and Leila is glaring at me like I am a complete moron, or dumbass, or in all likelihood something a lot worse than either. You know when somebody says they feel about two inches tall? Well, right about now, I feel exactly two inches tall.

Yes, I’m sure it is my fault. I got intoxicated by Leila’s beauty and just screwed up. I’ve been over it and over it about nine hundred times in my head in a matter of seconds, and that’s how I’ve rationalized and come to accept it. I feel like a real dolt. So much so that after she loses the point, which costs her the break, I sneak out on the next changeover, and go watch Caddy Kaylor’s match for a game or two, from behind a tree, trying to figure out how to leave the tournament grounds without being seen by anyone else, for by now I am sure the whole damn place has seen my big stinking breach of tennis etiquette.

It is only later, after having driven the fifty miles home, that I find out Leila has lost the next game and the match 4-6 4-6. I feel like a heel.



Two points from victory now. Leila had fought hard, for three sets, and though Eichmann had seemingly won hundreds of points off of her forehand drop shot, and had managed to win a close second set, Leila had dominated the match from the baseline and was clearly motivated to get her revenge for the previous week’s bitter loss. At the hands of her retarded ballboy.

When I arrived for the quarterfinals that morning, one of the tournament volunteers noticed me standing by myself, reading through a Pro Circuit program, and she approached me and started chatting about the day’s matches.

“Wait until you see this girl Leila who’s playing later today! She’s from Egypt, originally, and is she beautiful!” I think this lady was doing her best to market the event, and the day’s matches, to anyone she could stop long enough to listen. She probably took one look at me and sized me up (typical guy) and knew straight away what (beautiful girl) and who (brunette bombshell Leila) I would be interested in watching.

I practically could have knocked her over with a feather when I told her that Leila Niazy was my favorite player, reciting like word vomit the innumerable career stats of Leila’s that I had committed to memory like any good tennis geek. She grinned one of those “Your-secret-is-safe-with-me” kind of sheepish smiles and hurried off, before I could get another word in. I wasn’t even sure what, if anything, I wanted to say to defend my honor, and so I went back to skulking.

Another crunching forehand winner down the line brought Leila to match point.

“C’mon, Leila, first serve.” It seems awfully dumb, now, to have yelled out something like that in that very moment, and honestly, I don’t even think I know how I can think of stuff like that in that situation, because by that point my palms are sweating and my fingers are usually half covering my eyes like some sort of human latticework. The point being, I get pretty damned nervous at times like that. Whether she heard or not is irrelevant, I guess. She got her serve in, and after a short rally, Eichmann netted a backhand and it was over, about two and a quarter hours after it started.

I don’t know if she felt better, having dispatched Eichmann this week, but I felt a little better. The uneasy, nauseating feeling that had been gnawing away in the pit of my stomach all week had all but evaporated. I felt marginally less guilty about my ball tossing blunder.

Leila had been a qualifier at Port St. Lucie, and six wins for the week was impressive. She was now into the semifinal, and though it was an eighty mile drive, each way down and back, it never crossed my mind not to be there the next day to see her.


A seventh win came on Saturday, but number eight wouldn’t be in the cards for Leila that week at Tesoro–she lost to Parisian and close friend Letitia Musson in the final in two sets, undoubtedly drained from a long week.

I wanted desperately to find a way to congratulate her after her brilliant week, to say “hello” and something positively charming and memorable, but I let discretion play the better part of valor, figuring that between cheering and scoping her out with my camera at five of her matches that week, the only impression I’d likely make on Leila was one I’d probably wish she sooner forget. That, coupled with the Great Vero Ball-Tossing Blunder, and I figured that staying clear of Leila was probably the only viable thing I could do.

Even as my heart surely beat faster whenever I thought about her, I couldn’t possibly find myself worthy of intruding on her time. How could I possibly find the words? Were there even words?

With a lump in my throat I walked to my car and drove home, hoping that in any event, as low as I felt, I might be cheered catching her playing a match or two at the circuit’s next local stop the following week in Daytona, a few hours north along Interstate 95.


It must have been the dumbest coincidence of luck imaginable that the first “center court” match at Daytona the following week, on the day I picked to escape from work and take off to catch a day of main draw play at that week’s $25K ITF was the classic three set clay court tilt between Angela Eichmann and Nicholette Rogers.

The main stadium court was overlooked by a grandstand, capped by a shaded deck which led into the players’ lounge, and this early in the week, with almost no one in attendance, the deck and lounge were open to all spectators, even the plebes like me. Which was spectacular on a day like today, given that that it was about forty-five degrees, and windy as hell, which for Florida, in January, is pretty awful. I know any Yank worth his or her salt is probably thinking, “what the f___ is the matter with this p___y? Forty-five is beach weather”, but when you live in t-shirts and shorts year round, and get grouchy the minute your tan starts to fade, forty-five is pretty goddamned cold.

So anyway, in between sitting on my hands, shivering, guzzling barely lukewarm coffee, and making as many trips into the players’ lounge as possible to soak up the heat in there (I never realized until that day just how monotonous the life of a tennis professional must be until I saw them all, sitting around in chairs, like zombies, doing all the usual social media sort of bullshit like tweeting and snapchatting and instagramming each other on their smartphones….) I was sitting in the freezing shade on the deck, in my hoodie, counting all of Eichmann’s dropshots again, and feeling totally sorry for Rogers, who at one point in the third set threw up her hands in disgust and yelled out exactly what I was thinking: “Can you POSSIBLY do ANYTHING else?!”

About that time, I noticed Leila’s mother standing , oh, let’s call it three and a half feet to my right, wearing her traditional habib. I’d seen her at some of Leila’s tournaments before, including the week previously at Tesoro. The funny thing was, I had this picture of Leila as a glamorous tennis star, right, and yet I’d seen her Mom chiding her to make sure she ate her banana in between sets at Kiwi Club, in my home event at Indian Harbour a couple of years prior. I always smile at that memory when I think about that famous celebrity part of her. You’d think someone as glamorous as Leila wouldn’t have to worry about being told to eat a banana but I guess moms will always be moms….

Leila joined her Mother a couple of minutes later. She stood in between where her Mother was standing and where I was seated, about a foot away from me. I wanted to be sick just about then. Not sick. I…I just couldn’t breathe. The two of them spoke in Arabic, and stood there, talking, watching, waiting, talking, lingering, for about an hour. I was petrified.

At first, I thought maybe she, or they, were wanting to give me ‘what for’ for the ball tossing incident in Vero Beach, you know, maybe for costing her a match, which to a player is earnings, money, part of her income, so I was dearly hoping I hadn’t ruined her life and focused on trying to keep my head down while praying that she didn’t notice me inside my hoodie. Inside my shell. Where I was safe. Kind of like when the teacher is looking for somebody to answer a question in class and everyone has their nose in their book.

Then I decided I would get a little brave and try to indirectly impress her by letting her overhear my amazingly astute tennis knowledge, so I critiqued Eichmann’s limited and awful tennis game in a conversation with my own Mother, who was seated to my left. The things an idiot will do to impress the girl he likes.

Shortly before Eichmann’s match finished, Leila and her Mom left the deck and walked down to court 7, where she soon played, and ultimately won her first round match against Katy Howard. There was a nice lady in the stands who noticed my rooting interest in Leila, and when she saw me keeping score of the match in a notebook, she asked me a whole bunch of questions about Leila, which I happily answered. Any excuse to talk about her–to think about her for a few minutes–was welcome. Leila’s Mother was at the other end of the bleachers, cheering her daughter on. When Leila walked off the court, rather than walk directly over to where her Mother was seated, she made a circuitous route behind the bleachers, passing maybe two feet from where I was sitting, which seemed strange, considering that she went over to talk to her Mother anyway. Silently I was wondering if, you know, maybe it was one of those hints girls give you, like I was supposed to say something to her. But like a fool, rather than say, “congratulations!” or something equally appropriate, I just looked at my notes, as though if I did actually look her, or saw her looking at me, I would explode or melt down like Chernobyl.

But it wouldn’t be the last time Leila and I would “meet.”

That was three months later.


It was April 29. My Birthday, of all days. The Pro Circuit was in town, my hometown, at the Kiwi Club in Indian Harbour Beach. Leila was in the draw, and come hell or high water, I was going to see her play, even though I had been off of work a number of days already, what with the Sony, and trips to Tesoro, and Vero and Daytona. But my boss knew that I liked tennis, and I never took vacation apart from going to tournaments, so when I told him I was going to take some time off to see a few matches the week of the Kiwi tournament, he had no problem with it.

Leila was playing doubles the first time I saw her that week. With her best friend, Caddy. It was a warm, muggy day at Kiwi and having come straight from work, I was wearing a long sleeve shirt and dress pants and had just taken a seat as the players were warming up, and was sitting there, minding my own business, when I felt a tug on the back of my shirt.

“Aren’t you hot in that?” I turned around, and a woman, one of those obvious I’m-a-tennis-club-person-are-you? kind of ladies, smiled at me, and pointed at my shirt and again asked if I wasn’t feeling warm wearing a long sleeve dress shirt on such a humid day.

I laughed and told her I’d just come from work to see “my favorite player.” That seemed to spark an interest from her. She asked who my “favorite” was and I told her it was “Leila Niazy”, and as I went on and on about all of the matches I had seen Leila play in person, this lady’s eyes sortof twinkled. She politely waited for me to finish, and then offered up this gem that made me want to barf:

“Well, you know, I’m hosting Leila and her doubles partner, Caddy for the week. They’re staying with my husband and I at our home and….”

I heard the rest of what she said, but I was so sick about then I don’t think I really understood it. I started having horrible visions about what the dinner conversation might surely be like that night at that house, not entirely because of all of the things I spilled to this woman (which I did), and not entirely because she was nursing a big pitcher of some type of beverage that definitely wasn’t water.

Not to mention all of the gazillion or two pictures I shot of Leila during the match. With basically courtside seating, and the players making eye contact with those in the crowd at almost every turn in between points, I imagine it wouldn’t be hard for Leila, Caddy and their hostess to put two and two together if they did start talking about it.

And, like a knucklehead, I spent the entire week at Leila’s matches, in plain sight of her, cheering for her, taking as many photos of her as humanly possible, and generally hiding behind a post whenever she approached so as not to give her the impression that, you know, I had any interest in her. Some things seem pretty stupid when you think about them in hindsight.


Though she had another fine week. on the green clay, Leila left the tournament site a short time after losing her semifinal here at Kiwi, but not before one last colossally epic missed connection.

It was Sunday afternoon, and after a week of rain delays, Leila’s semifinal had been postponed until Sunday. It was windy as hell, and after taking the first set against Yelena Ostronova, she lost in three, but the interesting part was the conversation I had with an elderly couple up from West Palm for the day during the third set. They noticed my extreme partisan rooting interest for Leila, and asked me about it, and her, and at one point, in Leila’s final service game, after she’d served three doubles in a row, the wife leaned over and whispered ‘you’re making her nervous!” Frantic, and worried that my cheering was causing Leila to cough up her match against Ostronova, I asked, “Really?!” I really didn’t want another “Vero” on my conscience.

Anyway, after the match was over, the husband looks over and says, “you should get her number! If I was a single guy like you, I’d get her number!” I always wonder why people say stuff like that. What’s the point? Have you looked at her? She’s probably got a husband or nine million boyfriends.

A little while after the match, Leila and her “host lady” came walking past, obviously leaving the tournament venue on their way to take Leila to the airport and on her way to the next tournament. As they approached, and just about where they passed a couple of feet in front of where I was leaning against a post, the host lady, in her booming voice, yelled out, “Well, if anyone wants to say goodbye to Leila, we’re leaving now….” It was the way she sort of ran it out at the end, and kept it open, like she was waiting for a response. I dunno, like one of those “Girl Hints” I mentioned before. It’s probably nothing. Probably my complete and total imagination. But it was, undeniably, a chance to have said something to her. Anything.

I love that movie, “Say Anything”, with John Cusack and Ione Skye. It’s unbelievably relevant.

“Congratulations.” “I like your game.” “I think you’re really pretty.”

It’s the last time I ever saw her. She never returned to our tournament.

I never got a chance to say anything to her.

They say that life is a journey. The places we go. The things we do. Regrets are the things we don’t do.

Every day I think about Leila.

About not having the courage to say “hi” to her.

Or, “I’d like to get know you.”

Every day I live with that regret.

The thing is, I am pretty sure that Leila’s friends know that I like her. Whether that’s good or bad, or they have a laugh about it, I have no clue.

So many times I’ve wondered, ‘Are you the one who’s watching?’ Is it really you? Do we really have this…this unspoken way of talking to each other, of communicating?’ It hardly seems possible, but it seems like it has to be true, and my mind is unspooling at colossal rate trying to piece it all together. It probably already has. I know that you know. You must. Or maybe …maybe it’s all in my imagination. I wish all of those times had been different, in Port St. Lucie, and Vero , and Daytona, and Indian Harbour, and in Miami, too. That I had had the courage to talk to you. To say something. To start something. I know why I didn’t. Why I couldn’t. I didn’t think I had anything to say that would interest someone like you. I didn’t care if the others thought I was an idiot for asking for a photo or autograph. That was a dumb thing fans do. There was something more important about the possibility of meeting someone who made my heart spin.

I wish I could say that more eloquently and more poetically.