Ballboy and Ballgirl Tales


The best seat in the house for pro tennis is on the court where the ballpersons are the closest to players. Here a few ballkids share some of the memories of being on the court with the pros…

* “My most memorable story was getting admonished by Agassi on court in Cincinnati because I gave him a bottle of water he asked for but I forgot to peel off the label – he wasn’t sponsored by that brand.”

* “Pat Cash gave the ballboy next to me one of his checkered bandanas.”

* Ilie Nastase was the best. Always talking and cool with us. He would give away his racquets as well. I still have the adidas Nastase Competition wood frame he gave at one of the U.S. Opens in the 1970’s.”

* “I was a ballkid for Marcelo Rios at the RCA Championships in Indianapolis. I could understand a lot of Spanish and the things he said were not appropriate to say to a minor. Every year I would get as many players as possible to autograph my event T-shirt. I don’t have a Rios autograph because I didn’t want it.”

* “Federer was playing a match against Marcos Baghdatis and he turned around and said, I’m so fu**ing off!! So I turn around to the line judge and I say, I wish I was that f***ing off. And I kinda guess I said it louder than I guess I should have. And then he ended up hearing me and turned around and said, Thank you. Anyway, the guy in the middle of a match, he didn’t need to turn around and say anything. Just the fact he acknowledged what I said and was still nice about it.’

* “I remember at the 1975 or 1976 U.S. Open we were asked to run to the nearest Waldbaum’s on Queens Boulevard to get Drakes Cakes for Martina Navratilova. She literally had a fit and the supervisor would send us to find and bring back boxes of Yodels, Funny Bones and Devil Dogs.”

* “I had a chat with Federer in Dubai. Federer was the most intimidating player to ballboy for. Not in his behavior but more the fact I was so worried about doing something wrong. Speaking to him off the court, he was so cool. But he was just such a different person as soon as he was on court. So focused, so zoned in. But still this incredible aura of calm.”

* “I was ball boy for Pete Sampras on Ashe Stadium, match. He was on the other side of the court, serving to the ad court. He served it 126 wide. An ace. And I caught it with one hand. It was a totally lucky catch. The crowd in Ashe kind of applauded. After the changeover Pete came over to my side of the court to receive serve and I was still in my position, on the back wall behind the ad court. And Pete kind of walked over to me, out of his way, before going to the deuce court, with his head down and quietly said, ‘Nice catch.’ Before walking over to his position in deuce court to receive serve.”

* “I was ballboy for a Carlos Moya match at the Lipton and he just lost and after the match he threw one of his soaking wet Nike shirts and it hit me right in the face!”

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  • Duke Carnoustie · November 18, 2017 at 1:35 am

    Here’s what Jack Sock is thinking ahead of this showdown with Dimitrov…

    JACK SOCK: Not really, no. I mean, I wouldn’t be out here playing, competing if I didn’t think I could give myself a chance to win tournaments, to be here.

    I don’t know, I’m not the type of guy that will just enter a draw and be happy to make the third round or the quarters or whatever. I’m here to win matches. Not only here, but all tournaments. I think if I do the right things and I play the right tennis, I can give myself a chance to play on the weekend of any tournament. I think I’ve showed that more this year. Obviously there’s a rough patch in the middle with some things going on.

    I’m 25 years old. I’m not the new kid on the block any more. It’s kind of my time, the next however many years. Yeah, I’m just trying to do what I can.

  • catherine · November 18, 2017 at 2:33 am

    Murray/Lendl splitsville again. Not ‘fake news’. Lendl’s probably found other things to do now Andy’s future is in doubt with his injury.

  • catherine · November 18, 2017 at 2:37 am

    Duke – are you a ventriloquist ?

  • catherine · November 18, 2017 at 2:46 am

    Re Murray – there’s plenty of cast-off coaches around this time of the year for Andy to choose from :)

    Torben Beltz for one but I’m not sure about his English skills….

  • Andrew Miller · November 18, 2017 at 8:08 am


    Great piece. Speaks volumes about the players! It would be interesting if the Rios and Agassi stories with ball kids and linesmen had changed over time. Maya Angelou once said something similar to people do not remember what you said but how you made them feel.

    I read an SI article some time back that had to do with the last year Agassi played, 2006 and his final US Open. He literally knew everyone from the folks that cleaned towels to locker room managers, everyone. And how as a player progresses through a tournament the player depends on those people as much as their team and fans to make it through a match, win or lose.

    I’m back to the site because it’s fun. I hope we can steer clear of politics, just brings out the worst in us as it becomes a shouting match.

    Again appreciate the topic. Every match is about more than the players. Good to see that Federer treats everyone very well. And I do like Socks chances, why not?

  • Andrew Miller · November 18, 2017 at 8:18 am

    Would be interesting to see how Murray does. He doesn’t necessarily need Lendl. And Lendl ought to call up Berdych and give back or help Safarova or another excellent Czech player, even if it’s a phone call. Apparently Brad Gilbert coaches Nishikori over email, and French players once read all of Agassi’s interview transcripts to become better players. Reading helps, Scoop definitely ought to encourage players to read, Dan, too!!!

    Speaking of reading, heartbreaking to read about Jelena Dokic and see what she has experienced in terms of abuse from her dad. I’m not sure why we see a lot of this, whether it’s Aranxta Sanchez Vicario and her family and money issues, Dokic and abuse, so many others. Never saw this in the lives of the best women’s players like Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.

    Was there some falling out maybe with the little backhand that could, Justine Henin? No idea, she married so young and then discarded her husband and stuck with her coach, who still seems to be a fine coach in his own right. He’s a Spaniard too, no? Carlos Rodriguez?

  • Andrew Miller · November 18, 2017 at 8:41 am

    Bwrdych does not need Lendl. But he seems to be a guy everyone rejects except for beautiful women! Maybe Berdych is a genius like Stepanek!

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 18, 2017 at 8:44 am

    Thank you Andrew, great to have you back, was not the same without you. I know some of the US Open locker room managers and attendants and they all liked Agassi and Pete Sampras, Nadal, Roddick, most of the top players and the others. There is only one player they did not like who I will not name because though he was the richest of them all he was not generous. Roddick was the most generous, giving cash tip at the end of one of his runs. Agassi well liked in US Open locker room. Loving Sock’s chances, he has clearly taken a big step in the last few weeks with the addition of his new girlfriend to his team. We all knew Sock was eventually going to break out in singles and it looks like that time is now. Funny how those sparks can come from the most unexpected sources. Like Stepanek deciding to ask Korda for help and advice. Then goes from 547 in the world to top 50 in one year. Sock’s girlfriend was a college player at Florida Atlantic so maybe she is giving him special advice too :) Again, warm welcome back Andrew Miller.

  • Chazz · November 18, 2017 at 8:46 am

    Andrew, welcome back! How about Sock’s backhand? He is hitting it very well, his return of serve on the backhand side against Zverev was stellar. I will add that he has also developed some of the best drop shots in tennis. Thoughts?

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 18, 2017 at 8:49 am

    Murray and Lendl combo has grown stale. I dont see Murray winning any more majors and Lendl is not one to sit around and tolerate and accept second rate results. Murray also needs a jolt of some new energy. Wonder what Murray is cooking up regarding his next coach? Hingis??

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 18, 2017 at 8:51 am

    Dokic was a favorite player. Seeing her incredible comeback and run at the Australian Open that one year to the semis or quarters was one of the most moving experiences I ever saw in tennis. Nobody has suffered to the extent that Dokic has, not even Seles, Murray, Muster, Baker, Matsuoka, Goran, Spadea. Dokic is a hero. One of the great heroes of tennis.

  • catherine · November 18, 2017 at 9:12 am

    Andrew –
    Great to have you back – I hope you’ve been keeping up with T-P from afar.

    You’ll see that AK has finally thrown her coach to the wolves so at least one of our past hopes/predictions has turned out right :)

    Will be interesting to see how Fisette works out. He coached Lisicki at one point so maybe Angie talked vto her.

    Henin – she married again, but not to her coach I don’t think ?

    Ballboys – something I just remembered, BJK used to focus on one ballboy during her matches, it seemed to me – like it gave her a kind of anchor for her attention. I doubt she was aware of it.

  • Joe Blow · November 18, 2017 at 9:27 am

    Coaches..some questions:

    Do you think Berdych would have won Majors had he hired a Superstar coach early in his career? Or was he unlucky( or lucky) to play in this era?

    7th in the world
    Does he need to dump the guy who got him to 7, for a name coach? Or is this his peak, 5-8 in the rankings, work the points, just not good enough to win Majors?

  • jg · November 18, 2017 at 9:37 am

    Interesting quote from Sock above saying he’s 25 and it’s his time now, that is exactly what McEnroe said to him at Laver cup after he lost a set on a changeover, maybe his current success is linked to that 1 minute berating from McEnroe to get down to business

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 18, 2017 at 10:05 am

    jg; That’s a pretty sharp observation on your part and you could be 100% right. Kind of like Angelo Dundee sparking Sugar Ray Leonard who was losing to Tommy Hitman Hearns, by saying to him in the corner “You’re blowing it, son.” Leonard turned the fight around and eventually stopped Hitman Hearns giving him his first loss. Sugar Jack Sock repeat performance?

  • catherine · November 18, 2017 at 10:49 am

    Yuck – Goffin in 3rd set on serve for 5th game :)

  • catherine · November 18, 2017 at 10:51 am

    Serving for 5-3 lead I meant.

  • catherine · November 18, 2017 at 11:14 am

    Goffin bt Federer – not good for Belgium’s DC chances.

  • Hartt · November 18, 2017 at 11:53 am

    On Berdych and a super coach. One of Berdy’s problems is he does not play the big point swell. I doubt a super coach could have helped him a lot with that, he has never been able to change that over the years.

  • Hartt · November 18, 2017 at 11:57 am

    Huge upset with Goffin beating Federer in the WTF SF. Roger got out to a strong start, winning the first set 6-2. It looked like it would be an easy win for Fed, and then David played better and Fed kept getting worse, so many UFEs on the FH, strange to see.

    So the winner of the tourney will be someone who made the top 8 for the first time. Although Goffin did play as an alternate last year, getting creamed by Novak.

  • catherine · November 18, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    I’m sure Goffin v Dimitrov/Sock isn’t the final the organisers had in mind :)

  • Hartt · November 18, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    My distress at seeing Roger lose his match was somewhat alleviated by seeing Shapo receive his ATP awards for Star of Tomorrow and Most Improved Player in a ceremony immediately following the SF. He was dressed up for an 18-year-old – grey jacket, open-necked white shirt, black pants and black and white sneakers. A reminder of just how young Denis is, next week he will attend the “ATP university” to learn about handling life on the tour.

  • Hartt · November 18, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    The tennis world will have to get used to seeing players like these guys in the finals of big tourneys. Their time has finally come. That’s not to say that the “Big 4″ guys won’t still have some big wins, but the youngsters and what I call the “middle-aged” guys (like Dimitrov, Sock and Goffin) will make things much tougher for them.

  • catherine · November 18, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    Hartt – I can understand your feelings about Federer but you’re right, the times are changing and I can’t see the Big Four remaining big much longer. That’s the way of the world.
    But as you say re Shapo, there are plenty of up and coming young players – Canadians too :)

    I wonder, does the WTA have a ‘university’ – if not, they really should.

    Social note – as far as I could make out there was only one tennis player at Serena’s wedding – Wozniaki. Shows which way Serena’s life is going now. I’m dubious about her return at the AO. Unless Alexis is weaned early.

  • Hartt · November 18, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    I keep saying I want to see new faces winning the big tourneys, so have to accept that Fed won’t win as often.

    I enjoy watching the youngsters develop, and the Next Gen finals was a great showcase for some of them.

    In terms of Canadian tennis players, 17-year old Felix Auger-Aliassime is waiting in the wings – he was ranked about 159 the last time I checked live rankings. That kid is so talented I can’t wait for him to make the main tour, so there will be more opportunities to see him play.

    And players like the young Greek, Tsitsipas, so exciting to watch.

    Although we will miss the incredible brilliance of players like Roger and Rafa when they do retire, there are plenty of terrific youngsters who will provide lots of enjoyment in the coming years.

  • catherine · November 18, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    Hartt – and now Andrew is back you can keep us all up to date with doubles too since he’s always urging more doubles play to help singles.

    I’m wondering who Jamie Murray will link up with in mixed now if he continues. Hingis will be hard to replace.

  • Hartt · November 18, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    I am watching Murray/Soares vs Kontinen/Peers, but my stream is acting up.

    Hingis will be tough to replace for Jamie.

    Want to join others in welcoming back Peter.

  • Hartt · November 18, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    Lol, am trying to watch the match at the same time – am too old to multitask – I meant Andrew! :)

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 18, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    Berdych has the shots and the game but IMO he needs to use emotional adrenaline to get him over the hump. If he had the fire of Hewitt Nadal Serena he would have won majors but he just doesn’t desperately need it as much as he needs to need, want, hunger for it. Berdych is content with his career.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 18, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    Goffin beats Fed and Nadal in the same week – how rare is that? Goffin absolutely can win a major next year.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 18, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    Hartt; I know you know how good Tsitsipas is and his results and ranking climb this year prove it but I bet you don’t remember that Felix beat Tsitsipas in the US Open junior SF last year in straight sets 76 64 I believe. If they played today not sure if Felix would not be the favorite to beat Tsipper.

  • Hartt · November 18, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    I do remember that Felix win very well, especially since it was in SS. Felix has been in a slight slump lately, I thought he could make the top 150 this season, but he has slipped a few spots from his highest ranking – think it was No. 153.

    But it is just a matter of time before the youngster makes it to the main tour – could well be next year, after all, he reaches the ripe old age of 18 in August!

  • Duke Carnoustie · November 18, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    Our man Sock is one set away from the final!!! What a player!

    Yes Goffin can win a major with the Big Four close to the exit.

    Welcome back Andrew! Wasn’t the same without you.

    Catherine, I was in New Orleans last week but left Wednesday. Sadly my invite to the wedding got lost or something!

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 18, 2017 at 4:20 pm

    Duke send your wedding gift to Serena and Alex here at Tennis-prose executive offices. We will make sure it gets to Serena :)

  • Hartt · November 18, 2017 at 5:35 pm

    Dimitrov just beat Sock and will move on to the F. In the match point it kept going back and forth between the 2 players – very suspenseful. This is one example of why they should not introduce no ad scoring. But Jack made things difficult for himself with DFs in previous games.

    But Sock is now well-established in the top 10. :)

  • Duke Carnoustie · November 19, 2017 at 1:20 am

    Tough loss for Jack but he has proven himself this year.

    Here is the best article I could find on the Serena wedding…

  • Duke Carnoustie · November 19, 2017 at 1:33 am

    Not sure where Félix Auger-Aliassime is but he posted that his hotel wouldn’t let him use the gym because he is underage.

  • Duke Carnoustie · November 19, 2017 at 2:18 am

    One more great under the radar tennis moment in Fed’s press conference after losing to Goffin he was asked about the Paradise Papers report how Nike avoids paying taxes in Europe.

    Fed: Yeah OK it’s not the moment at the last press conference of the season. I don’t know anything about it.

  • catherine · November 19, 2017 at 2:25 am

    Duke – well, that was some wedding, so sorry you missed it :)

    Serena’s wedding dress was by the same designer who did Kate Middleton’s dress when she married Prince William, if anyone’s interested.

    Re Felix – I didn’t know there was an age limit for gym’s but maybe there is for safety reasons.

  • catherine · November 19, 2017 at 2:29 am

    Hartt – totally agree about no-ad scoring. So many matches I can think of would have been absolutely nothing without the suspense of, as you say, that back and forth.

  • catherine · November 19, 2017 at 3:01 am

    Duke – I’m sure Roger is aware of the Nike tax fiddle but he’s too discrete to comment. Lewis Hamilton got caught up in it – you’d think these guys have enough money not to bother about the odd million.

    BTW – I know how to spell ‘gyms’, no apostrophe – just a typo but it niggles me – I’m such a grammar snob :)

  • catherine · November 19, 2017 at 3:04 am

    And I can’t spell ‘discreet’ either :) Too early in the morning.

  • Hartt · November 19, 2017 at 8:59 am

    I love the story about Felix not being allowed to use the hotel gym because he is under age. It’s tough being a tennis prodigy. Not only is Felix ranked No. 159, but this kid is 6’3″ and 185 lbs, and in superb shape. Hope he found a place that would take him!

  • Duke Carnoustie · November 19, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    So Jack had Berger and Micaela in his box. Who is the other guy? Troy Hahn?

  • Hartt · November 19, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    Doubles News: Kontinen/Peers successfully defended their title today in London, winning in SS over Kubot/Melo. They were definitely the better team, solid throughout the match. Kubot/Melot never seemed to hit their stride. That is one big trophy!

  • Hartt · November 19, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    Of course it is Melo, I should not try to type while eating lunch.

  • Chazz · November 19, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    Duke, I think the other guy is Jack’s personal trainer.

  • Duke Carnoustie · November 19, 2017 at 2:30 pm

    Interesting. Wonder who that guy’s name is.

    Meanwhle another U.S. success story, Tennys Sandgren is up to a career-high of 85. Amazing.

  • Chazz · November 19, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    Sandgren has been doing well. Weird that he still can’t beat Smyczek though. 2 recent losses to him and 0-4 overall head-to-head.

  • Chazz · November 19, 2017 at 4:01 pm

    Happy for Dimitrov winning ATP Finals. He’s one of my favorite players and he looks to be nearing his potential that everyone has waited for. I hope he plays like this in slams now. This week moved him up to #3 in the world.

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