It was a nice summer day, not too hot or too humid, as I ran my nervous self out across the tennis court in Flushing Meadows, Queens, New York. I was at the 2015 US Open Ball Person tryouts, following the footsteps of my brother Shaun. I would have to say, it was a ton of fun trying-out although, as I looked back, I was quite a disheartened 14 years old when I found out I didn’t make it to the final cut of the rookies.
The next year comes and I felt as ready as I’d have ever been. I wasn’t as nervous as the previous year at the tryouts, but I could still feel the pressure as I was quite overwhelmed by the number of people, over 450 actually, that were trying out for 75 odd spots. I felt I stood out among other contestants, maybe because I was a 6’3 15-year old athlete, but also because I did really well at the net and back. I got called back as I did last year, and I think I really showed off my skills, especially my athleticism after I made some really nice catches and throws. The following few weeks were treacherous and long. When I found out I was going in for the qualifier week, I was extremely happy, but knew at the same time that my spot was a deserving one after my performance.
After that, the rookie training followed and soon after we finally got our uniforms. The US Open came faster than ever and before I knew it I was at court 5 as a ball person for the first time. I was extremely nervous and tentative as ever but I soon got comfortable after I got involved with my crew. I was so happy and relieved that I couldn’t help stop smiling for the rest of my shift. I also realized I was on a televised court and it finally hit me that I was in an international sports event as a US Open Ball boy, a dream I shared with my brother Shaun who was ball boy as well. I made some really good friends and we hung out anytime we could.
The initial experience was great. I got to see ball boy players, young players, retired legends, experiences coaches, and of course, the whole show of the top players from all around the world with the likes ofKyrgios, Jack Sock, Wawrinka, Djokovic, Karlovic, Nishikori, Thiem, Steve Johnson, Radwanska, Pliskova, and Kerber to name a few. Although I would usually reach home at midnight after a long day starting with high school soccer at 8am and then rushing to my shift at 10am, a 140-mile round trip daily, I had a lot of fun and never got tired of having to go there every single day for almost 3 weeks. I would never have traded this experience for anything and was glad to have watched my favorite players play, whether they would be in Arthur Ashe stadium, or 5 feet away from me.
The time went by way too fast, although I’m ready for another great experience next year. Besides all the fun I had, being a ball boy, I learned many important things about my future as an athlete and a person. I learned to stay composed, even at match point, and push yourself all the way to the edge, and then further. I saw how many players had the audacity to hit a winner even when they looked as if they were going to lose the point. I understood how the destiny of these players, and mine, lies in your hands.
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