The Singles Game - Lauren Weisberger Page 0,1

Royal Box. With Camilla, which is unusual, because I think they do not like each other, and Prince Charles and Princess Kate are not there.’

‘Really?’ Charlie asked, although she already knew this. As if playing Centre Court at Wimbledon for the very first time in one’s career wasn’t stressful enough, she had to be playing the lone seeded British singles player. Alice Atherton was only ranked number fifty-three but she was young and being hailed as the next Great British Hope, so the entire country would be cheering for her to crush Charlie.

‘Yes. Also David Beckham, but he is at everything. It is not so special to see him. Also one of the Beatles, which one is still alive? I can’t remember. Oh, and I heard Natalya say that she saw—’

‘Karina? Sorry, I’m just in the middle of some stretches. Good luck today, okay?’ Charlie hated to be rude, especially to one of the few nice women on the tour, but she couldn’t stand the talking for even one more second.

‘Ja, sure. Good luck to you, too.’

Karina passed Marcy on the way out, who had reappeared at the door with a tote bag full of all-white sneakers. ‘Quickly,’ she said, pulling out the first pair. ‘These are a ten narrow, by some miracle. Try them.’

Charlie dropped to the floor, her black braid smacking the side of her cheek hard enough to hurt, and pulled on the left shoe. ‘They’re Adidas, Marce,’ she said.

‘I am really not interested in how Nike feels about you wearing Adidas. Next time they can get the sneakers right and none of us will have to worry about it. But now you’ll wear what feels the best.’

Charlie stood up and took a tentative step.

‘Put on the other one,’ Marcy said.

‘No, they’re too big. My heel’s slipping.’

‘Next!’ Marcy barked, tossing over another Adidas shoe.

Charlie tried the right one on this time and shook her head. ‘I’m a little jammed up in the toe cage. And it’s pinching my pinky toe already. I guess we could tape the toe and try it …’

‘No way. Here,’ Marcy said, untying a pair of K-Swiss sneakers and placing them at Charlie’s feet. ‘These might work.’

The left one went on easily and felt like it fit. Hopeful, Charlie slipped on and tightened the laces on the right shoe. They were clunky-looking and ugly, but they fit her feet.

‘They fit,’ Charlie said, although they felt like she was wearing cinder blocks. She did a few jumps followed by a short jog and a quick cut to the left. ‘But it’s like wearing a pair of bricks. They’re so heavy.’

Just as Marcy was reaching into the bag to pull out the last pair, an announcement came over the ceiling speakers. ‘Attention, players. Alice Atherton and Charlotte Silver, please report to the tournament desk to be escorted to your court. Your match is scheduled to begin in three minutes.’

Marcy knelt down and pushed against her toes. ‘You definitely have room in there. Not too much, right? Will they work?’

Charlie did another hop or two. There was no denying they were heavy, but they were the best of the three. She probably should try on the final pair, but she glanced up just in time to see Alice in her own all-white outfit walk past the training room and toward the tournament desk. It was time.

‘They’ll work,’ Charlie said with more conviction than she felt. They have to work, she couldn’t help thinking.

‘Good girl.’ The relief on Marcy’s face was immediate. ‘Let’s go.’

Marcy slung Charlie’s enormous racket bag over her shoulder and headed out the door. ‘Remember, as much spin as you can. She struggles when the balls jump high. Take advantage of your height over hers and force her to hit high ones, especially on her backhand. Slow, steady, and persistent will win this one. You don’t need excessive force or flash. Save that for the later rounds, okay?’

Charlie nodded. They were only just approaching the tournament desk and already her calves were feeling tight. Was the right heel rubbing a little? Yes, it definitely was. She was going to get blisters for sure.

‘I think I should try on those last—’

‘Charlotte?’ Another Wimbledon official, also clad in the same purple polyester skirt suit, took Charlie’s elbow and led her the final ten steps to the tournament desk. ‘Please, just a signature right here and … thank you. Mr Poole, both ladies are ready to be escorted to Centre Court.’

Charlie’s and her opponent’s eyes met for