Passing the ball

January 06, 2018

Put through their paces:William Leahy and Zavier Briggs had plenty of trials to pass, before being accepted as an Australian Open ball kid for this year's event.

It is no easy feat to become a ball kid at the Australian Open.

Plenty of tryouts and a full-time commitment for three weeks in January is needed.

Kyabram’s Zavier Briggs, 15, and Girgarre’s William Leahy, 15, have cleared all the testing and will do the job when the Grand Slam starts on Monday, January 15.

The pair progressed following a regional tryout, then a Melbourne trial, followed by squad training once a month for five months.

Whittled down from almost 3000, Leahy and Briggs will be part of the contingent of 350 who will wait on the world’s top players.

Having only taken up tennis two years ago, it will be Leahy’s first time as a ball kid.

In contrast, Briggs is a seasoned professional, entering his fourth year in the role, after being identified as one of the best during last year’s tournament.

He was one of the few chosen to be a ball kid at the memorable final which saw veteran Roger Federer defeat Rafael Nadal.

‘‘I was part of the men’s final, they do it based on your skill, so they go off performances throughout the whole tournament and then choose the best 12 kids,’’ Briggs said.

‘‘It was amazing (during the final), explosive.’’

Leahy is so sure he will enjoy it, he has already signed on for next year.

But for Briggs it will be his final year as a ball kid must be aged between 12 and 15.

There are plenty of rules for those who are selected, with Tennis Australia holding its ball kids up to a high standard.

‘‘It’s taken very seriously, you can’t talk to any of the players when you’re in uniform and you can’t take any photos,’’ Leahy.

But they can soak in as much of the action as they like during the week, provided they change into casual clothes before watching from the sidelines.

Both boys will service the base-line rather than crouching at the net and, although players are known for letting their emotions spill over, Briggs takes it all in his stride.

He has even had the chance to take part in some of the lighter matches.

‘‘Some players can get temperamental and they’re yelling at themselves, but sometimes it feels like they’re yelling at you,’’ Briggs said.

‘‘It’s funny when they are yelling at themselves in their own language.

‘‘The legends are good, I was on for the match with Henri Leconte at Margaret Court Arena and I was laughing; they want you to act professional but they’re more lenient in those matches.’’

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