Australian Open 2020: The ball catchers, our last redoubt | sports


I remember the illusion with which we expected the celebration of the emblematic Conde de Godó Trophy all the young people who trained at the Tennis Club Barcelona at the end of the 70s. We were 17 or 18 years old and after anticipating for months the arrival of our admired tennis players, We had the possibility, together with other kids from nearby clubs, not only to see them up close, but also to make lines in their matches.

Apart from trying not to miss the details of his blows, he tried to fulfill my important mission with a certain youthful solemnity, indicating if the ball was in or out, in matches of Manolo Orantes, Guillermo Vilas or Ivan Lendl. Just behind the responsibility of the chair judge, was our opinion and the feeling, in addition, to be privileged and to be collecting a prize for our daily workouts throughout the rest of the year.

Currently all this has gone to a better life with the increasing professionalization of the sport. Those young aspiring players have been replaced in recent years by adult experts in ruling whether a ball has gone on or off the court. It is frequent, if you want, see a line singing balls at the US Open and then see it again at the Australian Open or Roland Garros. It is still curious that to carry out the simple work of seeing where the ball falls (you just have to be vigilant and have no vision problems) we must move from New York, to Melbourne and then to Paris or London to the lines. It is difficult to find a justification.

The only redoubt that remains of that less professional tennis of my nostalgic memories are the ball bouncers, younger boys who train to be tennis players, who are given some previous instructions to collect the balls and give the towel to the players in the breaks. They are the only ones who can continue to wait with a certain year for their prize, their moment near their admired tennis players, the personification of the dream that most of them pursue throughout the year when they prepare daily in their respective clubs.

In recent days, there has been talk of the anecdote that happened in Rafael’s penultimate game, in which a young and friendly ball catcher fit with a smile a ball of my nephew. The girl took, apart from the tremendous blow, a cartoon to comment with her classmates, the fact that Rafael approached with normal concern (what I understand that anyone would have done) to know how he was.

Seeing how things are going in tennis and in so many different areas, one begins to fear that an enlightened one will appear to make the determination that it is already time that we also professionalize the work of the ballboys. The day that someone from Singapore must move to Toronto to retrieve the balls on the court and throw them at the player, we will not only incur another nonsense but prevent the coexistence of some children with the idols they want to emulate.

It would be a shame, although from time to time, someone would be exposed to receiving a ball.

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