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2Black
Jul 8th, 2009, 03:22 PM
Ballperson hopefuls test their mettle at US Open tryouts
Thursday, June 25, 2009 9:50 PM ET

USTA
By Erin Bruehl, USOpen.org

FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y. -- In order to be chosen as a US Open ballperson, one needs to possess a variety of physical assets, ranging from solid athleticism, to a good throwing arm, to agility and quickness.

Strong candidates for one of the coveted positions also should have knowledge of the game of tennis and be very accurate with their strong throwing arms.

And over 400 people came down to the 2009 US Open Ballperson Tryouts at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Thursday to prove they had these physical talents and land themselves spots on the court during the 2009 US Open that runs August 31-September 13.

There are approximately 250-275 ballpersons employed during the US Open each year, with a mix of veterans and rookies. Exactly how many open positions this year will be decided when all of the veteran ballpersons confirm whether they are or are not returning this year. Callbacks will be held the week of July 14.

But for however many positions were available, the competitors were giving it their best shots. Participants had to be at least 14 years of age and could choose whether to try out for solely the backcourt or net positions or both. Many were talented tennis players and huge tennis fans, coming in groups of friends and family members.

Among the family member groups Thursday was the father-daughter duo of Steve and Alexa Sokol.

Steve Sokol is an avid player and decided to come down from Katonah, N.Y. and tryout for the very first time at age 50.

Steve tried out for the back position while Alexa, 16, attempted both the back and the net. A USTA member, Sokol had a great experience whether he gets selected or not. He plays tennis every week and also used to be a tennis instructor.

It is fun trying out whether I make it or not, he said. If I do get it, it will be neat to take off work for two weeks to do this. Tennis is a great sport and I think I did pretty well (today).

Alexa plays varsity tennis at John Jay High School and the family tries to come out to the US Open every year. She was a little disappointed in her tryout but tried her best.

I like the net position because there is more action but I messed up a little because I was nervous, she said. I made a lot of the same mistakes (as other people) because I was trying to do everything perfect, which is hard to do.

Friends Kyra Silitch, 14, and Dayana Agasieva, 15, are also competitive players and they both train at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. They each tried out for both the net and back court positions, which they thought went well.

Silitch attended her first US Open match last year at the mens final between Roger Federer and Andy Murray and she instantly loved it.

Tennis is my life and to be at the center of the US Open would be a dream come true, Silitch, of Manhattan, said. I feel in love (with the US Open) as soon as I walked off the train (last year). I loved the atmosphere and to be a ballgirl and be there the full two weeks, I would love to experience that.

Agasieva, who lives in Forest Hills, Queens, hopes to become a professional tennis player one day and thought her tryout was successful.

My coach said this would be a good opportunity to watch all the great players, she said of potentially becoming a ballperson. I think I did good today but my backcourt was better than my net play.

Avi Roy, 17, of Jackson Heights, Queens convinced two of his friends, Raymond Wong, 17, and Hao Zhou, 17 to join him at the tryouts this year for the every first time and they all tried out for both the net and the back positions.

I always wanted to do this, said Roy, whose favorite player is Andy Roddick. The US Open is a once a year experience.

Another big Roddick fan at the tryouts, Matt Billet, 16, of Bedford, N.Y., had strong throws the length of the court as he tried out for the back position. He plays on the tennis team at Byram Hills High School and has been coming to the US Open for seven years.

I think it went pretty well today, he said of his tryout. I got all my throws in, no pop flies, and I think I have a pretty good arm. This was my first time trying out. My mom told me about it (the tryouts) and I said Lets do it. Im a big tennis player and we always come to the US Open.

There were many other big US Open fans in attendance including 14-year-olds Lara Decter and Ruthie Freilich, both of Lawrence, N.Y. For Decter, she was excited to finally make the age limit.

I always watch the US Open and I always wanted to be a part of it, Decter, who tried out for the net position, said. I play tennis and I always wanted to do it (try out) and now Im finally old enough.

Ive been watching the US Open since I was about three years old, said Freilich, who also tried out for the net. I play USTA tournaments all the time and my family is really into tennis. I think the tryout went well. It is exciting knowing I could be part of something (the US Open) so big.

There were plenty of veteran ballpersons assisting with the tryouts and have valuable knowledge to impart to their potential co-workers. Jemila Brady, 15, Justin Perkins, 18, and Jesse Smith, 19, were just a few of the veterans on hand who know exactly what is required to earn the job.

The main thing is you have to speed, agility and quickness, said Brady, who has been a ballperson for three years. My first day I bugged out but you just know what you have to do, you calm down and you improve as you go.

And as many participants found out, being a ballperson is not as simple as it may appear.

A lot of people assume it is easy but it is a lot harder than most people think, said Perkins, a seven-year veteran.

Smith, a four-year veteran who now regularly works matches in Arthur Ashe Stadium, remembers how nerve-wracking a ballpersons first career match there can be. His first match in Ashe was a day match featuring 2004 US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in his second year. Now he loves being on the court for so many great matches, especially at night.

It was kind of daunting at first to be on Ashe, he remembers. I was still shaking pretty well. But I had to control myself and said, It is like any court, you just throw a little farther. You just have to control your nerves and stay calm.

rockstar
Jul 8th, 2009, 03:28 PM
well, to be fair, most of the ballboys/ballgirls at the us open looked more like men and women to me

~{X}~
Jul 8th, 2009, 04:03 PM
US Open Ballboys(the older ones), the ones who I have noticed be there for atleast 5-6 years now are hot. :lol:

I have a crush on 2 of them that are always on Arthur Ashe Stadium. :hearts:

TheBoiledEgg
Jul 8th, 2009, 04:21 PM
ballboys my ***
more like ball pensioners.

most old enough to be the players grandparents

HRHoliviasmith
Jul 8th, 2009, 04:29 PM
age is just a number. good for them.

raquel
Jul 8th, 2009, 05:10 PM
They always have older ball people at US Open. I remember in Seinfeld when Kramer became one. It was hilarious :lol:
http://gothamist.com/attachments/nyc_daveh/kramerballboy.jpg