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To The Left, To The Left - James Blake Welcomes MLC Ball Kids

Thursday, January 14, 2010

James Blake and MLC Ball Kids
Photo by Mike Steere

American tennis star James Blake was a popular drawcard as the MLC ballkids were officially welcomed to the 2010 Australian Open today.

Dressed in their bright magenta-coloured Lacoste uniforms, this year’s group of 316 ballkids was received by notable figures including tournament director Craig Tiley and the former top-five ranked Blake.

Blake told the group their contribution is vital to the success of the tournament.

“The players appreciate everything they (ballkids) do. We work pretty hard out there and it means a lot to not have to go and pick up the balls.”

Before having a hit with two of the ballkids on show court three, Blake made some pledges to the group.

“I promise to be as nice as I possibly can to you all. And if I win the tournament you will be the first people I thank,” Blake said.

There’s plenty of incentive for the ballkids to work hard, too. Each individual receives an exclusive gift from Tennis Australia to thank them for their efforts, and the two best performers – one boy and one girl – receive the MLC Ballkid Award of a cheque for (AU) $1000 and a trophy that is presented to the recipients on Rod Laver Arena.

Ballkids work shifts of 45 minutes on court, followed by 45 minutes off court. In order to protect them from Melbourne’s sun and intense heat, the ballkids wear legionnaire hats and UV protected sunglasses. They are also provided with water bottles and wear special ‘coolits’, which are cool padded neckties.

Returning ballkid Steven Clark said he thoroughly enjoyed the 2009 tournament.

“We all had a lot of fun and we got to service the best players in the game.”

The final selection of ballkids for this year’s Australian Open includes 20 who have traveled from Korea and numerous children from other parts of Australia.

They are aged between 12 to 15 years old and have had a rigorous training schedule that has included five on-court sessions.

More than 1000 applications were received for the 316 positions, and trials to pick the final group began at local tennis clubs in April 2009.

Posted by Shelia

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