Each year, tennis tournaments like the Australian Open bring up countless questions, such as:
Are the grunts necessary?
May I marry Roger Federer… please?
WHO IS THIS 15-YEAR-OLD BEATING VENUS WILLIAMS AND HOW DO I MAKE HER MY FRIEND?
But perhaps most curiously: What’s the deal with the ball boys/girls?
Who are they? What do they do? What are their secrets?
On Saturday, ball kids were brought front and centre when French player Elliot Benchetrit asked a ball girl to peel his banana. Like… literally.
The girl offered him a banana, which yes, he liked very much, but then he asked her to peel it.
The umpire then told him to peel it himself and so true.
Then, on Thursday, a ball kid received a sweet gesture from Rafael Nadal after one of his powerful forehands hit her. After a wide shot from the tennis star stuck her face, Nadal quickly approached the young girl and gave her a peck on the cheek. During the next point, when she was in action, the Melbourne crowd gave her a huge cheer.
*????????????????* ballkid moment, narrated by @RafaelNadal ????
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 23, 2020
So what kind of experiences do ball kids have on the court? What are their interactions with the players like?
We spoke to a former ball boy, Jake*, who told us exactly what it’s like to pick up and throw some of the world’s most famous tennis balls.
Are you paid?
According to Jake, who’s now a 26-year-old lawyer, he wasn’t paid for his role as a ball boy in the early 2000’s.
“The perk was we got to keep the Adidas clothes we had to wear on the court,” he explained. “They included flap caps which weren’t (and still aren’t) particularly cool so it wasn’t much of a perk.”
Oh… I’m sure flap caps from a major tennis tournament make for very cool attire to wear out on the weekend.
Even now, ball kids aren’t paid, but they get a food allowance as well as free tickets for family and friends. And, yes, they still get to keep their cool on-court gear.