A cartoon tennis player, by Xavier Aldekoa

Between chains or happiness, Edmore chose to change teams. He had studied economics in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, until the crisis pushed him underground to South Africa to make a living selling trinkets on 7th Street in the Melville neighborhood of Johannesburg. Those were tough times: the Zimbabwean dollar was so devalued that people were collecting their wages in supermarket bags full of bills and rushing to buy bread before their money was worth nothing. Edmore had a worthless trillion-dollar bill in his pocket as a memento of that sinking. Whenever he saw me heading down his street, he brandished that empty piece of paper.

– I’m the only trillionaire street vendor!, he joked.

He has the faith and the claw of Nadal, the strength of Sampras or the elegance of Federer, but he adds a murderous ingenuity

Edmore sold colored wire figures that kicked a beer cap like a ball. The first day we met, I protested because there were white, yellow and red but no Blaugrana. He looked at me with a mischievous smile and told me that his religion did not allow it: he was meringue to the core.

It wasn’t really. During my years in South Africa I saw Edmore change teams several times with no regrets. After several exhibitions of Messi, he swore allegiance to the Catalan club. Then he went to Chelsea, after Bayern and, the last time I saw him, he was from Guardiola’s City. One day, I made that football promiscuity ugly for him and he shrugged.

– My life is already hard enough. A club is not a god, I prefer to be happy.

Edmore and I never agreed because football moves feelings that reason does not understand and faith in some colors is eternal or it is not faith.

Carlos Alcaraz celebrates his victory over Frances Tiafoe


But yesterday, while watching Carlos Alcaraz return impossible balls to Tiafoe at dawn, I remembered Edmore.

Because in tennis, between chains or happiness, I always chose to change teams.

When I was little, I remember sitting in front of the television to cheer on Arantxa and falling so madly in love with Gabriela Sabatini that I came to hate Steffi Graf. I also declared myself a soldier of Agassi because of his colored shirts until Sampras beat me because of his plasticity. Not even when the whirlwind of Rafa Nadal arrived —the tennis player who has made me get up early the most— did I strengthen my loyalty: Federer won me over with his majesty as a Swiss watchmaker and criminal doll.

Like Edmore, I’ve changed teams again. Because Alcaraz plays tennis in a deliciously impossible way. He has the faith and grit of Nadal, the strength of Sampras or the elegance of Federer, but he adds a killer naivety. He is Bugs Bunny with a racket full of gunpowder in his hands. Because his backhand and his inconceivable lobs are not tennis; They are cartoons. They are pure emotion.

If Edmore liked tennis, I have no doubt: he would choose to be happy. She would go with Alcaraz.

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A cartoon tennis player, by Xavier Aldekoa

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