Ballpersons at the US Open are at their best if they are neither seen nor heard while doing their job. But at the 2012 Open, we heard a lot about a ballperson named Ryan McIntosh.
He’s a 23-year-old from San Antonio, Texas, an Army veteran who lost a leg when he stepped on a land mine in Afghanistan. This year while participating at the Wounded Warrior Games in Colorado, Ryan learned of the USTA’s Military Outreach program and the ballpersons’ tryouts. Wearing either a prosthesis in a Nike running shoe or the bended metal leg with a thick rubber sole often seen now at amputee track meets, he was able to do everything required of a ballperson, and was one of the 250 out of more than 500 hopefuls selected to participate.
While Ryan had always played a variety of sports before his injury, tennis wasn’t one of them. In addition to the running, scooping, throwing, squatting and standing in extreme weather conditions a ballperson must be able to do, he also had to learn the sport, things like how tiebreakers work.
Ryan obviously learned quickly and well, as he joined 25-year-old Denise Castelli, another right leg amputee, from New Jersey, who was working her second US Open. Both were utilized at many matches, including Ryan at the Djokovic/Ferrer semi-final and Castelli at the women’s final.
At the pinnacle of tennis, the US Open, the seemingly disabled proved to be more than able -- and grateful for the opportunity to show the world so.