When tennis stars like Serena Williams, Coco Gauff, and Rafael Nadal take the court docket, it’s exhausting to pull your eyes away. However should you do, you’ll discover a couple of different key gamers mixing into the background: the US Open Ball Crew.
We’ve all seen them on tennis broadcasts: They sprint to the online to retrieve serves that didn’t fairly make it over, bounce balls to the gamers for his or her second shot, and roll balls to fellow crewmates. They usually do all of this with out breaking the circulate of the sport.
So what’s it prefer to be a ball boy on the game’s largest stage? SELF caught up with first-time US Open ball boy Emerson Odagis, a 24-year-old from Philadelphia who works in software program full-time, to learn how one even will get this gig, what sort of prep work permits you to do it effectively, and what to do should you drop the ball, actually—plus what it was prefer to toss the ball to Williams throughout her historic closing victory.
SELF: You have been chosen as one of many Ball Crew members to be on the court docket for Serena Williams’s closing win. What was that like?
Emerson Odagis: That was a real bucket listing merchandise for me. It was completely a surreal second. You see her on TV on a regular basis, so that you perceive how robust and the way highly effective she actually is, and then you definitely get to see her up shut in individual. There have been a number of instances I used to be a foot and even six inches away from her. To have the ability to assist her was simply an honor, a privilege actually.
What was her serve like while you’re that shut?
It appears to be like just like the blink of an eye fixed; it’s gone earlier than you even see it. You see it go up, after which you need to flip as a result of it should go by you in a blink of an eye fixed. As we’ve gone all through the event, I’ve gotten a bit higher at timing when to show my head to see issues, however there have been a pair instances the place it was by me earlier than I acknowledged it. She was serving the ball at like 115 mph, which is fairly fast.
How did you get your spot on the Ball Crew?
I’ve been a tennis fan ever since I used to be little, and I noticed I wasn’t going to make it to the US Open as a participant. So earlier this yr, I discovered an utility on-line for the Ball Crew. I utilized and included stuff about my tennis historical past, saying that I’d performed tennis, and simply talked about my data of what a ball individual would do and the way I believed I’d be a great asset to the Ball Crew. A short while later, I bought an e-mail again saying they favored my utility, and so they invited me as much as New York Metropolis to check out.
What was the tryout course of like?
The tryout course of for me was someday, and it took about an hour. They needed to see if we might perceive the sport appropriately, and it was quite a lot of working and rolling [the balls], as a result of that’s a vital a part of being a ball boy. They run you thru drills on the court docket, as a result of while you do go on the market, there are some obstacles you want to concentrate on—you need to get across the web, the gamers’ luggage, the chairs. It’s undoubtedly harder than you may assume it’d be while you see it on TV.