I have a confession to make.
I am in the middle of a long-standing love affair. Not with a woman, but with tennis, or, more specifically, watching tennis on television.
And as wonderful as it can be, sometimes tennis is a cruel mistress.
Tennis and I have a one-sided relationship, meaning I have no say in what she does or when I can see her. And the only time I have been able to see her recently is in the wee hours of the night.
Live coverage of the Australian Open's major matches does not begin until around 2:30 a.m., but that doesn't stop me from watching every chance I get, sacrificing sleep to see Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer hit balls past each other for hours on end.
I set my alarm for 2:30 a.m., brew a cup of hot tea, and mute the television so I don't wake my fiancee or the three dogs sleeping beside me (never a good idea). During the more exciting moments I try to curb my enthusiasm to a silent fist pump or a whispered: Come on! I call it silent cheering.
By the time morning comes I am spent, with barely enough energy to hit the snooze button for an extra five minutes of sleep.
When I finally get up I am not in the best of moods. In addition to having just a few hours of sleep, I am feeling slightly ashamed of my lack of self control.
Did I really need to stay up that late? Was it worth the trouble for five hours of pure tennis-watching joy? These are the questions I ask myself as I wash the dirty feeling from my body in the shower.
I start to feel better only after a visit to Starbucks where I waste far too much money on doppio espressos (at least I can say I am helping the economy).
What makes my love affair worse is there are few people I can talk to about it.
Whenever I bring up the topic of tennis to my fiancee she begins to pass out from boredom. I can literally see her eyes glaze over as if to say: Tennis again... why am I going to marry this man?
And while my coworkers will talk tennis with me, the conversation usually devolves into them accusing me of having a man crush on Federer. They have gone so far as to put on my computer desktop a photo of a topless Federer, his hairy chest exposed as he prepares to rip a forehand crosscourt. Although I enjoy watching the guy play, I don't need to see his nipples.
The only person I can really talk to about tennis is my grandma, whom I call every Sunday. But even those conversations get tiring as she has a tendency to repeat the same thought three or four times before moving on to the next one.
If you a reading this grandma thanks for listening. And thanks grandma for listening. Thanks again for listening grandma. Grandma thanks.
Sadly, the Australian Open finished early Sunday morning. And while this doesn't mean my affair with tennis is over, it does mean our relationship will be put on the back burner until the next Grand Slam.
At least now I can get some sleep.
(Craig Haupert is a sports writer for The Minot Daily News. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)