As a kid, my dad worked twelve-to-fourteen-hour days, and our family spent much of my childhood following Dad’s jobs across the country. Positive: I saw so much of the country by the time I was twelve. Negative: I had zero friends.
Turns out: neither did my parents. When we finally settled in rural New South Wales, Dad began playing sport on weekends. Soon, he’d stop to chat tennis with my math teacher in the local supermarket, play with the mayor, and submit write-ups to the editor of the local newspaper who was also the club treasurer.
In the summer, we’d stay up watching Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic play into the early hours of Monday mornings, or if he’d go to bed, I’d give him an exciting play-by-play of the match point(s).
When I left for university at eighteen with dreams of being a writer, my dad and I spoke regularly on the phone, but it was clear my increasing study (and social) priorities and his workload meant we rarely had much to say to each other. Our lives had become very different, very quickly, and it was a struggle to bridge the gap.
A few years later, during Christmas break, Dad and I decided to take a hit at the local courts. I was quite abysmal, but he seemed genuinely happy to just spend time together and have a hit.
Then, the pandemic happened and the first sport to revamp was tennis due to its in-built social distancing requirements. With nothing better to do, I signed up.
When I told dad, it was like unlocking a treasure box of conversations; soon we were chatting about techniques and making plans to play together.
In 2021, as the second-wave lockdowns hit, I began writing a sports romance about a burnout celeb tennis player who fell in love with a 'normie' at the Australian Open. Playing tennis added authenticity to the match scenes, and soon, I’d finished the novel and planned to pitch it to publishers.
When Dad asked to read it, I was hesitant to give him a few chapters. Not only was it still a deeply personal passion project, but it was also very queer—an element of my personality my family and I didn’t often talk about, mostly because I’d only come out in my mid-twenties.
Even though he didn’t read often, he said liked the book idea and often asked for updates on the progress of the novel. When I signed with Pan Macmillan Australia in early 2023, he was overjoyed.
My novel Love and Other Scores was published in November. I gave a copy to Dad and pointed out the dedication. It was up to him. At the time of writing this article, he’d text me every few days to let me know what chapter he’s up to, and to remind me that he’ll skip over any sex scenes if he felt they were “coming up”.
The truth is that authors leave a lot of themselves on the page; having anyone in my family read it feels deeply personal. At first, I worried I put too much of myself on the page, but to dad, the book is just a romance—regardless of the sexuality of the characters—and says he is immensely proud of the book.
Tennis has allowed me to connect with more people in ways I didn’t think were possible. I’ve made friends across generations—having on-court conversations about things from as far-reaching as tech layoffs to who they romance in the game Baldur’s Gate 3. I’ve improved my fitness, joined a tight-knit community, and – weirdly enough - launched a writing career.
This year, I plan to join the LGBTQI+ tennis group and play Monday nights. Dad and I also signed up for the Wimbledon ticket lottery with loose plans to have a father-daughter trip touring the UK—fingers crossed we’re chosen!