World No.4 Elina Svitolina (UKR) today met the 360-strong Australian Open ballkid squad for the traditional welcome ceremony today, even taking a 360-degree team photo to commemorate the occasion.
“I was a ballkid for Andy Murray when I was young and I remember being a bit nervous, but very excited and it was so much fun. The AO ballkids do a great job and as players we appreciate the work they do,” Svitolina said.
The Australian Open ballkids, fuelled by Vegemite, are aged between 12 and 15, and hail from around Australia and the world. There are 293 from Victoria, six from Queensland, 10 from New South Wales, six from South Australia, three from Tasmania, and three from Western Australia.
A further 38 kids have travelled from around the world, with 20 from Korea, 10 from India, six from China and two from France all set for the experience of a lifetime at the Australian Open.
From March 2018 extensive trials for the highly sought after positions took place throughout Melbourne, Sydney and regional Victoria.
Internationally, ballkids were selected from trials in Korea and India and through partnerships with the China Open and Roland Garros, as part of the International Ballkid Program presented by Kia and supported by the Victorian and Federal governments.
The final squad was selected in November and the team has had the chance to hone their skills at the Australian Wheelchair Tennis Nationals, Australian Open Play-off and December Showdown.
“The ballkids play an incredibly important role and are the unsung heroes of our sport,” Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said.
“Our ballkids are put through some of the most rigorous training and selection processes to prepare them for the millions of viewers watching them on the global stage. To be an Australian Open ballkid has been recognised as an experience of a lifetime. Not only do you get to meet some of the world’s best sporting stars, but the skills that are developed and the camaraderie of working in a team environment will create everlasting memories.”