It has become a routine. whenever they meet, if it’s available, Rafa makes coffee and they talk. Roger keeps the set of tools with him since Prague. Today is not an exception. He invited Rafa to his place when they ran into each other at practice court.
The tennis politics, he still isn’t sure that it’s a good subject between Rafa and himself, according to the bad record they have had. But they’re older now, more mature, softer than they once were. Maybe this will be a new start.
The doorbell is ringing. Before he gives a proper greeting, two pairs of tiny feet run across and throw themselves on his guest.
“Hola! Lenny! Leo! “
Rafa carries these two under his arms and turns around, shouts and giggles filling the house right away. The boys should have gone sightseeing with their mom and sisters. But he let slip that Rafa would come last night, they refused to go unsurprisingly.
Rafa plays with them for a while and tires them enough that the boys started yawning. They slept too less last night, too excited for Rafa’s visiting. They bring them upstairs and put them in bed together. The way he takes care of the boys is way too skilled that Roger couldn’t help but chuckle. They haven’t talked about the news of Rafa’s wedding, it’s too many emotional twists that he would rather not to. But he could imagine easily what kind of daddy Rafa would be.
“ You don’t even need the orientation for daddy-to-be. “
Rafa smiles back but doesn’t say anything. He isn’t caring much about what Roger makes fun of now. His mind is occupied by the hue of ATP chief vote. They talked a little bit in Melbourne and Roger suggested a meet yesterday. He isn’t sure if it’s a good idea or not. The ways they see things are different. History has shown it clearly.
“ Go downstairs, I make you coffee.”
They settle in the big kitchen island. Rafa makes coffee and he opens the refrigerator to find the Haagen-Dazs he bought for him. It’s still a mystery to him why Rafa makes good coffee while he doesn’t drink it.
“I don’t feel good we get involved too much. We’re in the final stages of our career. The upcomers should take decisions.”
“Novak seems not to agree with you. “
Rafa lets out a small sign. He has expected this before he came. There’re always some clashes between these two. He couldn’t tell what Roger really wants. He was not here judging Nole and him. He always gives the runaround when he talks about politics. It’s almost impossible to get an answer if Roger isn’t willing to. He chooses to put it aside.
“We won’t be always around. The youngsters need to grow up their fan base. The tournaments need to adapt to the situation without us. “
“This is why you skip Madrid? You think it‘ll get enough attention if I play?”
“No. I skip Madrid because David gonna retire there. I no want them make fuss on we play each other or no. He deserves one-hundred percent attention. “
“That’s my first clay tournament in three years!“
“We could play in Paris. “
“You think I could reach final? With Novak and all the young guns around?”
“ I no know but I believe. Otherwise, how could I step on court every day?”
He looks at Roger sincerely. He has no intention to be offensive. He is just a little frustrated. He feels Roger is sort of distressed due to the dim performance recently. But they’re not here for self-consoling. He has chosen to be an outsider years ago. If Roger wants him to talk about politics, he wants it to be productive. He won’t repeat again what happened before.
“Roger, I no know what you think if you no talk. We’re straying. Do you really wanna step in?”
“You’re not just a player this time. You have Laver cup, not a tournament of course, but big enough to affect the schedule arrangement.”
He always knows Rafa is smart from the beginning they met. Many people couldn’t see this due to the language barrier back to then or Rafa plays dumb to his advantage now. He has underestimated Rafa once and he won’t make the same mistake.
It’s hard to say how much he’s willing to invest in the tennis politic. He has too many things that need to care, his game, family, four children, his own event. It would become tricky if there’re some conflicts between players and tournament owners. Which side should he choose? Also, he is not a real tournament owner. The schedule argument against Davis cup is still lingering in his mind. He asked Rafa as foreign aid to clinch its place. He owed him once.
“ At least, we should put some work in finding the successor for Kermode. “
“You have any candidate? “
“It’s not easy to be an ATP chief, has to know about the sport and business. It’s better to be a former player, moreover a former tournament director. Not many people have qualifications like Kermode.”
He doesn’t come up with any name really. It’s not easy to deal with the balance between players and tournaments. And the one must have some influences in the council. He hardly imagined anyone who could affect the Serbian. He didn’t know anyone who particularly got well with him. Probably Rafa could count.
He watches Rafa playing his ice cream with a spoon. It’s sort of like he has some ideas in mind. But Roger feels he is almost up to no good or maybe he is too self-conscious, he isn’t sure.
“What do you think?”
Rafa takes another mouth of his ice cream and still doesn’t say anything. His look makes Roger very uneasy. Roger couldn’t help but shift at his chair. Finally, Rafa finishes his dessert in a leisure manner and says.
“ It sounds like you, no?”
“ I’m not a former player yet. C’mon Raf. You’re suggesting me retiring?”
“It just feels sensible to me. I could imagine you as the chief easily. “
“Then you gonna be my deputy.
Rafa rejects almost defensively. And Roger knows he screws up. He knows better than anyone why Rafa left the council. He shouldn’t have brought up this.
Rafa shrinks back. It seems he decides to leave right now. And Roger is too desperate to not grab his hand. If it’s inevitable, he hopes they could be reconciled this time.
“RAF, listen to me. I’m sorry really, for what happened that time.”
“I’m sorry too. I was immature. I don’t wanna repeat it. We should not discuss this. “
Rafa bites his lips. His demeanor shows how he feels about this topic. And of all the things Roger wants least is making him uncomfortable. He gives up.
“Okay, at least you could make me some lunch? I’m tired of order in. “
Then, Rafa smiles, his whole facial features slacks.
“Si, this one is manageable. “