The US Open Ballperson Tryouts brought together plenty of enthusiastic participants.
© USTA/Nicholas Walz
By McCarton Ackerman, USOpen.org
Packed crowds enter the gates of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center each year for the US Open, but several hundred tennis fans arrived on Thursday with the hopes of getting even closer to the action.
The annual installment of the US Open Ballperson Tryouts brought together a wide of range of ages and backgrounds, all of whom were eager for the chance to chase after shots hit by Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams. Some of the teenage hopefuls wanted to list the job experience on their college applications, while a handful of retired adults were living out childhood fantasies.
"It really is one of the coolest summer jobs anyone could ever have,” said Tina Taps, Manager of Tennis Programs at the NTC and US Open Director of Ballpersons. “Each year, we take in some great representatives from right here in New York City and the surrounding communities, a melting pot of culture. And then we have those who come from different states to participate, even other countries. And why not? It’s a chance to be part of a great team.”
One of the youngest people at the tryouts was 14-year-old Jacqueline Idowu, who traveled from New Jersey with her father.
"It's really cool because [this is] such an iconic place," she said. "Just being here and seeing Arthur Ashe Stadium is a good opportunity. I would be honored if I could work a match there."
But while Idowu was experiencing the grounds of the US Open for the first time, others were seasoned veterans. Thomas McKeever, 22, worked as a ballboy during the 2008 US Open and even got to work a match between two future US Open champions, Andy Murray and Juan Martin Del Potro. With that experience still fresh on his mind, he was eager to return and earn his old gig back.
"The way I see it, I could pay money for tickets here or I could ballboy a match," he said. "It's just epic."
Others were hoping to keep their experience as a ballperson in the family. Anastasia Koniaev, 14, listened to the stories her sister told about working as a ballperson at the US Open for the last two years and wanted to join in on the action.
"She got to do a match for the Bryan brothers and loved being able to get so close to the action," said Koniaev. "I really want this job because I'd love to be able to spend the summer with my sister. Maybe we could do a match together!"
Sixteen-year-old Victoria Zezula's aspirations for being a ballperson are strictly personal. An avid tennis player who hits the courts several times per week, she hopes that watching the pros up close will spur her own game forward.
"When you're that close to the matches, you can see their strokes up close and see why they're among the best in the world," she said. "It's not the same as watching as it on TV."