tennisYes, it was Martina Navratilova. So? Did anybody really think it was me? Everybody in the club knows I’m right handed and have no real cross-court forehand. And, I’m a man. What’s all the commotion?

Everyone is aware that Navratilova signed a three-book deal with Random House for $1 million without writing one word. When we heard that, being writers, we saw her as the perfect ghostplayer. Think back: This club has had people stand in before. Last fall when David had the medical convention in New Orleans, there was that guy Steve Something who played with Linda. He was good. He’d actually been on the team at Virginia. Twice the server David will ever be. Did we fuss? Did we not even try to return his cannonball serve, standing instead almost against the back fence with our racquets before us like little shields? Poor form, guys.

We decided not to tell anyone because we didn’t want a crowd. And, in fact, we won’t be talking about it through the next three Sundays while Navratilova finishes the Sunday Doubles tournament as me, nor will I be mentioning it in my remarks at the awards banquet in April. (Given the fact that Elaine and my ghostplayer have not given up a single point thus far, I expect to be at the podium sometime that evening beside the Kirschbaum Best Mixed Doubles Trophy.)

Aside from the strange behavior of our two sets of opponents last Sunday, there has been very little negative reaction to Elaine’s and my decision to pursue the magnificent Kirschbaum Best Mixed Doubles Trophy with a ghostplayer. Needless to say, we’ve been pleased with the results. As everyone in the club knows, we’ve been playing in this tournament for 14 years and our chances at the bona fide big Kirschbaum, complete with the two gold figures, racquets aloft, were getting pretty slim.

We talked strategy all winter. We spent many hours driving back and forth to the indoor court over in Nickels, and it was one rainy night in November after a particularly strenuous and dispiriting session that we made our decision. I could see those awful Sundays at the club walking off the court blinded by sweat and pain and the misery of going down to some couple that hadn’t been in the club three years. It was a horrible vision. It was then Elaine suggested a ghostplayer.

At first, we didn’t think we’d be able to afford anybody ranked in the top 50, but our desire and the fact that there’s been this terrific upswing in our holdings in cable futures made the sky the limit. Martina has been staying with us, soaking up the ambiance of our household, so she has a better grip on my game. She’s been a good sport about wearing my whites in the matches, though those are her shoes.

We’ll continue as we started; that is, I’ll do the talking. All questions about how we’ve done, how we feel about next week, etc. should be addressed to either Elaine or me. We are the team. We’re not hiding the fact that Martina is on the court, doing the work, making those deadly drop shots and firing her backhand down the line, but our names are on the ladder, and – should things continue and our game stay strong – it will be our names, Elaine and Ron, on that golden trophy in just three short weeks.