They met and chatted several times through the course of the following year. After a while, Nisha's chattiness started to rub off on Vijay. Around her, he started opening up more and more. She always found it strange that it was easier for Vijay to strike a spectacular forehand winner than it is to strike up a conversation. He was amazed at how long she could talk -- even his longest matches don't compare to his conversations with her!
They chatted about many things, and often nothing at all. He was starting to become quite smitten with her, but didn't really know it. This feeling was very scary, very foreign to a detached guy like him but part of him liked it. She, on the other hand, liked him as just a friend. Over time, they became very good friends. But as their friendship grew, Vijay’s tennis performance declined. He didn’t train as hard as before, and his form on the court was starting to slip. He was too happy…. too satisfied… not hungry enough to win like before. He was starting to lose more.
One day, they decided to meet for dinner at a favorite restaurant. Each of them had a “big news” to share with each other. They meet up at their usual restaurant and exchanged some normal pleasantries. Finally the defining moment came.
"Vijay, I have something exciting to share with you." said Nisha, with a big smile and full of excitement.
"Great! I have something to tell you too!" said Vijay in anticipation.
"You'll never guess what I'm about to tell you!"
"I think I have an idea", he said with a twinkle in his eye.
"I doubt it. But anyway, tell me your news."
After much hesitation, he finally forced out the words. "I like you, Nisha. I really like you a lot!"
He had done it! He had finally worked up the nerve to tell her. This was the first time he had told a girl he liked her and wasn’t really sure what to expect. But he felt like a big weight was taken off his shoulders as he heaved a big sigh of relief.
"Oh, that’s nice!" she said nonchalantly, almost indifferently. She reacted like it was just some insignificant thing she heard on the news the other day.
There was a long, uncomfortable pause. Vijay was totally confused. He didn’t expect this. He was hoping to get a bigger reaction for such a big news. This was such a slap in the face! But he finally regained his composure.
"Ummm….. so what were you going to tell me?" he said hesitantly, almost at a loss for words..
"I'm getting married. My parents fixed me up with this really cool guy. He has his own business and he’s from a well-to-do family. I got confirmed last week! Isn’t that great?!?!"
Vijay's jaws dropped to the floor. He could say nothing. "Great”, he said half-heartedly, barely able to mouth the words.
"You don't sound like you're happy for me." said Nisha, unable to comprehend his pain.
"Happy? Of course I'm happy! I'm thrilled!! I'm totally thrilled that you just threw my love in the trash and then happily off marrying someone else! HOORAY!" he said, his voice full of bitter sarcasm.
"What the hell is your problem?! Who asked you to get carried away with your feelings, anyway?"
Vijay’s blood was boiling now. He was exasperated. He felt betrayed, backstabbed. "I didn't do it on purpose. I didn't even realize it till much later. You act like I committed a crime!"
"You know, if you were a real friend, you would be happy for me!"
Vijay snapped back "If you were a real friend, you would actually understand how I really feel. But I guess that's too much to ask from an ice princess like you!"
"Oh, quit feeling sorry for yourself and grow up!"
"Quit being such a bitch!"
Vijay stormed out of the restaurant and never spoke to Nisha after that. This was the last thing he needed. He already had a lot of pressure, both self-imposed and from his fans, to win. This "love" crap only made things worse. After all, love means nothing in tennis!
The days following the fight with Nisha were absolute torture! Everything became harder, from the moment he woke up to the moment he went to sleep. Unlike most people, Vijay wasn't the type to talk, cry or scream out his problems. He thought of everything in terms of wins and losses. His only way of getting through his problems was to simply push harder and win, whether it was his father passing away or a love failure. The highs from the wins would cancel out any of the lows. This is just another loss to recover from, he kept saying to himself.
He would train harder and longer, drank more fluids, exercised more, did everything possible to try to win but it did little to help. He would overdo his workouts and end up injuring himself more. He never got past the Quarterfinals in any of the tournaments he entered. He was a step slower when reacting or running for the ball. It felt as though he had weights attached to his arms and legs. He would tire more, become thirsty more, his muscles were tighter, and being anemic didn't help matters any. The mere thought or mention of Nisha would get the usually stoic Vijay on edge. He didn't want to hear her name, see her face, hear her voice or have anything to do with her! They hadn't spoken a word since the day of the fight, and it may be just as well. Everyone, especially Vijay, knew he had to move on.
Vijay needed help, and he knew it! So he had a long heart-to-heart with his trainer and coach. He channeled all his negative emotions into his workouts and slowly got himself back into shape. He wasn’t the type to back down or wallow in self-pity, so he kept at it. He was starting to become like his old self, and he liked it! The hunger, the drive, the single-minded determination… it was all starting to come back.
But his true test… his ultimate test… was still yet to come!!