Besides the occasional exhibition with a top-ranked player, my public matches are mostly hustle jobs. I have a slick routine to lure in the suckers. First, I pick a highly visible court, where I play by myself, knocking the ball all over the place. Second, when some cocky teenager or drunken casino guest strolls by, I invite him to play. Third, I let him beat me, soundly. Finally, in my most pitiful voice I ask if he'd like to play for a dollar. Maybe five? Before he knows what's happening, I'm serving for the match and 20 bucks.
I don't tell my father about my side business. Not that he'd think it was wrong. I just don't feel like talking to my father about tennis any more than is absolutely necessary. Then my father stumbles into his own hustle. It happens at Cambridge Racket Club in Vegas. As we walk in one day, my father points to a man talking with Mr. Fong, the owner.
That's Jim Brown, my father whispers. Greatest football player of all time.
He's an enormous block of muscle wearing tennis whites and tube socks. He's complaining to Mr. Fong about a money match that fell through. My father steps forward.
You looking for a game?
Yeah, Mr. Brown says.
My son Andre will play you.
Mr. Brown turns. He looks at me, then back at my father.
I ain't playing no eight-year-old boy!