My second time at the US Open, I paid extra for the better seats. The new roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium was high above my head. Last year I had been in the nose bleed seats. After my experiences then, I was willing to spend a bit more to get closer to the action. I had tickets for tomorrow too, but would probably wind up selling them to an office mate. This was the match I was hoping to see. It was again the woman’s quarterfinals, and I was excited to see Irina had made it to Ashe once again. She ended her run on this court last year and I wondered how she would do today. I was a bit conflicted though on whether I wanted her to win or not.
I always love those first few minutes when the two players help each other warm up. They almost never show it on television, but they each go through their practice routine, taking turns serving or hitting forehands and backhands to each other. It reminds me that they all know each other and while they clearly want to win, they also have to balance the energy they have, against what they’ll need in the next round if they win. There is no second chance in the US Open. One of these women would be going home after this match.
A year ago I had watched Irina get beaten badly by the number two player in the world. Everyone in the stadium wanted to see a three set match but there was no contest. Shot after shot kept Irina running far more than her opponent. You could tell she was almost keeping up, but almost isn’t good enough at that level. Her serves were broken quickly and soon enough it was match point. Irina walked slowly to the net to shake hands. I was surprised how long they spoke at the net before walking over to the chair umpire. She quickly walked to the exit while the winner was being interviewed on court. That would and probably should have been the end of me even remembering her name. Sure, she was pretty and had obviously worked hard to get there. But as I had walked around the smaller courts earlier, I had seen many pretty tennis players who had all somehow scraped their way into the Open. Who knew if Irina would even be back in a year? As I was about to go get some food, my phone buzzed in my pocket, which was pretty odd.
I had put all my apps on mute, but apparently had skipped the setting for when someone swiped me on dinder. At the time, it was not as well known as grindr or tinder. It was created specifically for people looking for a nearby dominant, usually for a short while when visiting a new town. I was friends with the founder and was helping them beta test it. I didn’t think that many people were on it yet, this was the first time it had buzzed for me. I wasn’t actually much of a dominant, just doing a favor for a friend.
After muting this app too, I looked at the actual request. “Please help me. I need to be punished for my sloppiness. I no longer have my usual partner to assist me.” There was no photo and as I looked around the crowd in the stadium, I wondered who it could be.
I texted them back through the app, “Could possibly meet after tennis match ends. I’ll need to know more details about how messy you are. Where would we meet?” Since there was no immediate answer, I went back to watching the next match and pretty much forgot about the strange request.
The second the next match ended though, the response came in. “There will be an Uber waiting for you in 15 minutes, if you’d like to join me.” The friends I had come with were happy to head on without me when I told them I was going to meet someone. I wandered through the crowd towards the pickup lane, wondering what I was getting into. Eventually I found the car in the mass exodus, the driver knew where to take me.
Right as we arrived, my phone beeped again, “room 807.” Curiouser and curiouser.
I knocked on the door and it was opened immediately. A blonde woman I had never seen before, neatly dressed in a tennis outfit and with a pony tail looked at me carefully, then stepped back to let me in. I stood to the side and looked at her while she closed the door. She was cute and I started to size her up. I wondered what her tennis ranking was.
She led me into the main room of the suite. She indicated I should sit down on the couch. I realized this was a test so I remained standing. She stopped and looked back at me in surprise. I spoke before she could say anything, “I’ll stand until I decide if I’m staying or not.” I looked around the room and continued, “You should sit on this footstool and we can talk about what we both want here.”
The surprise hadn’t left her face but she wasn’t moving fast enough for me. “Now! Or I walk right out of here.” She quickly crossed the room and sat on the stool which was a little short for her, precisely as I had hoped. She opened her mouth to say something but I interrupted her, “Stop. Be quiet unless you are answering a question, I will give you opportunity to ask your questions when I’m done. Do you understand?”
I was a bit confused by the look on her face. She didn’t seem to be enjoying this, but she was still playing along. She answered, “Yes.”
“That’s not acceptable, even at this early stage of us getting to know one another. You need to address me as Sir at least. We may move on to other names later. For now, what is your name?”
Something was off. I didn’t know what, but this was not exciting her.
She looked up at me and responded, “Katerina, ... Sir. I’m...”
I interrupted her, “Stop. Answer the questions I ask, do not expand on them unless I ask you to.”
She looked like she was biting her tongue, but she kept quiet as she watched me. I did notice her eyes kept flicking back to the other room.
“Katerina, is there anyone else here?” I started walking towards the other room. Would there be a husband or boyfriend? Maybe I should just go.
Katerina seemed happy to keep her answer short this time, “Yes, Sir.”
As I heard that answer, I saw someone step forward from the other room. It was a very tall woman wearing a hoody.
“Sir, Katerina is not who requested your help. I am. She was supposed to make sure you were comfortable before I came out. That obviously was a mistake, mine, not hers.”
As soon as she spoke, I recognized her, Irina, the player who lost the quarterfinal. She had changed clothes and showered, but it was definitely her.
I paused for a second to let my mind catch up. “Fine. Irina, switch places with Katerina. Katerina, get me a water please and then come sit here on the couch.” Irina looked very uncomfortable on the small footstool. I waited until Katerina returned and had followed my instructions.
“Irina, I watched you lose today. Tell me what you are looking for here. I want you to speak freely so that we can avoid any unpleasant misunderstandings or other mistakes as you call them.” I could see her shivering slightly as she listened to me speak.
“Sir, I did not play as well as I could today and now I’m out of the Open. I’m very mad at myself, I should have held up better. I feel like I need to be punished for my performance. The person who would normally help me with this is not available, but he suggested checking the app.”
“That’s fine, but you’re still avoiding telling me what you want me to do to you.”
“I apologize Sir. I usually get whipped with a belt. He varies it though, sometimes he spanks me. Last time, he whipped me for each of my unforced errors and made me count them out. He can only do that when I have time to recover though.”
“If you already have a Master, why would you look for a new one?”
.... There is more of this story ...