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Silencing the Crowd

By Sophia Mao

The stands were packed. There were eager, excited faces everywhere; this was the final match that would decide the victor. It was a blistering afternoon, spectators fanned themselves with brochures and newspapers they picked up at one point. The crowd roared as the defending champion walked on court with two huge bags slung over each shoulder. He looked confident, energetic, and ready to play the best tennis of his life. With each step towards his bench, the cheering got louder and louder. Just a few moments later, the second player, much younger, stepped onto the court. The crowd’s cheer was not as loud- and rather polite. It was obvious who the crowd favorite was. In contrast to the defending champion, he was fidgety and nervous.

On court the linesman and ballkids were already taking their places, ready to do their job. The tension in the air felt as tight as the strings strung on the players’ rackets. The umpire appeared. He wore a formal dark suit and tie. The two players warmed up for 15 minutes before meeting at the net. The audience held their breath as the umpire tossed the coin into the air to determine who would choose to serve or receive. Tails. The young player won the coin toss and chose to serve first. Finally, the match began.

The first set came and went as expected- the defending champ won it effortlessly, six games to one. The young player looked hopeless as each ball shot past him with incredible speed and precision. The audience was not helping his spirits either; they were often chanting the other player’s name. However, during the break between sets, the expression on his face changed to something resembling determination. The audience also noticed this, and shifted uncomfortably in their seats. With a fighting spirit unlike any other, the young player started the second set strongly, hitting each shot with force and chasing each ball down as if his life depended on it. Unsettled, the defending champion became less confident in his game, and started to make more mistakes. Neck to neck, the score was six all. A tiebreaker would have to be played to determine the winner of this set.

The spectators were leaning on the edges of their seats as the longest point of the match was being played out. Both players knew that whoever won this point would gain a great amount of momentum. Surely the older, more experienced player would find a way to win this point, right? The defending champion suddenly hit the ball with an impressive amount of force deep into the corner of the court. The young player managed to get it back- but it was sent high into the air, a perfect chance for the other player to hit a winner. The crowd started to cheer; there was no possible way that the young player would be able to win this point. CRACK! That was the sound that came from the player’s racket as he smashed the ball into the court. What happened next was so unexpected that the crowd was stunned into silence. With incredible athleticism, the young player jumped into the air and hit the flying ball back into the court where the other player was unable to reach. For a few seconds, the whole stadium was dead silent. All of a sudden, the stadium shook as everyone erupted into cheers. From then on, the young player went on to win the tiebreaker, and then the final set to become the winner. The crowd was even wilder this time, but in support for the young player.

That day, he won both the championship and the hearts of the people watching.

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