Four central Victorians have spent the past few days enjoying experiences they’re never likely to forget as Australian Open ballkids.
Olivia O’Meara, Brian O’Donoghue, Simon Dundas and Emma Webb are part of the lucky 380 ballkids selected from 2500 applicants.
Bendigo’s O’Meara could be classified as a veteran of this year’s intake, with the 15-year-old in her fourth and final year servicing the world’s best players.
Last year O’Meara was on court for the women’s final between Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka and she’s been straight back to Rod Laver Arena already this year.
“I was on Rod Laver on the first Monday so I had Djokovic and Sam Stosur. It was exciting, there were a few cheerers in the crowd,” she said.
“We don’t have much (interaction with the players) they just ask for the towel, most of them are (polite).”
The ballkids began try-outs in July and had to train for months to prepare for the first Grand Slam of the year.
Bridgewater’s Emma Webb enjoyed herself so much last year at Melbourne Park she just had to come back.
“I just thought because last year it was all new, this year I thought I’d have a bit more experience. I just loved it all,” she said.
“I was a bit (nervous) last year, because I wanted to do well, but I’m pretty cool with it this year.
“I like the baseline better because I like servicing the players with the balls and I like handing them the towel.”
After missing last year, Strathfieldsaye’s Dundas is back at Melbourne Park for his second go as a net kid.
“I just like the experience of getting close to the players and being a part of it really,” the 14-year-old said.
“On the big courts like Rod Laver I got a bit nervous, two years ago I did the women’s semi-final. To appear on the big courts – that’s what we all aim for.”
Many tennis champions, including Roger Federer and Pat Rafter, started out as ballkids.
While they might not all follow that pathway, the two weeks at Melbourne Park is something the youngsters will always remember.
“The memory of being on court and working closely with these amazing athletes can never be taken away,” ballkid manager Darren Sturgess said.