Cobba’s Big Tennis Adventure

Let me take you back to March 2008. I was surfing the net looking at various sport sites. I came across the Australian Open website which looked like it hadn’t been updated since a day after the tournament ended. However there was one new story on the list. It read “Australian Open Ballkid Applications Now Open!” So I clicked here and there, told them about myself and submitted a resume.

Two months later after I had forgotten about it, they sent me a letter telling me I had passed through the first stage of selection and that I needed to go to a try out in Melbourne Park. I was really excited. So excited that I try so hard to impress at the try out, I got through to the third stage of selection. By then I was getting really good and concentrating at the points, rolling the ball and running across the net. By October I had found out that made it and was going to be a part of the Australian Open. I could hardly contain myself. The thought of standing there on court with the crowd cheering made me overjoyed.

Let’s fast forward to the morning of the 15th January 2009. It was the 1st day of the Australian Open and my first day of being a ballkid. I stepped off the train to greet the warm morning air. All around me people were dressed up in green and gold and wearing Australian flags as capes. I skipped ahead of the queues and walked underneath Rod Laver Arena to Ballkids HQ. I looked at the court allocation list to find out I was on Show Court 3. Not a bad start, I said to myself.

So I worked hard on court to remember all the training we did prior. I learnt how the tournament works behind the scenes. I had a real passion for what I did. I felt very special and very proud of the job that I was privileged enough to do.

But my favourite time I had as a ballkid was later in the tournament.

Because I live a distance away from Melbourne, I had to get up pretty early to drive to the train station to take the train to Richmond. Unfortunately (It was actually pretty fortunate after all) the train was running late because of the extreme heat. We were delayed further because of an accident on a level crossing ahead of us. (The person in the accident happened to be my second cousin). So in the end I was about 2 hours late. Because of this I had to ring the Ballkid Supervisors and tell them to put me on the emergency list. So as I walked into the Ballkid Area, the most amazing thing happened. I heard over the radio that the ballkid on Margaret Court Arena had rolled his ankle. The supervisors looked over to the emergency list to find my name. Next thing I knew, I had scored the best seats in the house.

It had all happened so fast, I couldn’t believe it. Now if you have been to one of the later days of the open, chances are you would have seen a Legends Doubles Match. And if you have you will know how much fun it is to watch. In my game there was the legendary Patrick Rafter paired with Wally Masur down one end versus the hilarious Mansour Bahrami and Darren Cahill. The game was played out just for fun. The whole game was full of trick shots. There were shots through the legs, lobs through the legs. There even was a drop shot which bounced back over the net because of the backspin. At one point Patrick Rafter took off his shirt and wore a sombrero. I had never laughed so hard in my life. Nearing the end of the match, as I was standing at the back of the court, Darren Cahill approached me and asked whether I wanted to swap places. I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. So anyway after the next point, he came over again and stole my hat. He shoved me his racquet and pushed me onto court. I stood there like a deer in headlights. Then Patrick Rafter served at me.

Pause.

At this point in the story, it should be noted that I do not play tennis. There was only a handful of Ballkids who didn’t.  I did when I was younger but had no recent experience.

Resume. I hit the ball straight into the net. I told everyone the sun was in my eyes. Pat then argued to the chair umpire that it wasn’t fair. So Jim Courier stepped down and pulled Wally off the court to be replaced by the other ballkid. Once again I lost the point so Mansour kicked me off his team. The crowd was really getting into it as well. I thought about doing a lap of the court just because, but our shift was over.  I walked out of the arena underneath the complex and gave the other ballkid a high five. I took a step back just to think of what had just happened.

I had played tennis with Pat Rafter on centre court.

Cobba

About Jake "Cobba" Stevens

Jake "Cobba" Stevens is currently studying Sports Journalism at La Trobe Uni. One of the youngest 'old bloods' supporters in Melbourne, he can't decide if the crowd was louder at the 2005 or 2012 Grand Final.

Comments

  1. Great article Cobba!

    Wonderful story, i’m always interested in those ball boys/girls, they do things so professionally. I remember a few days ago, one of them got stunned by a ball hit into their head when they were on the side of the court. Can’t remember what match it was..

  2. Jake "Cobba" Stevens says:

    Thanks Josh, Yeah it’s a pretty cut-throat sort of job. Only the very best ballkids get to be on Rod Laver. And Yeah it can become dangerous sometimes. Last year I got hit right in the nuts by a serve from John Isner during the warm up. That shift was pretty difficult to stand upright afterwards. Haha :)

  3. Ooooooh shit that would hurt Jake – although if it was me in the crowd I’d be killing myself laughing, and I bet it made a good story in the schoolyard even though you might not be able to have kids now!

    Compelling read Jake, looks like you had amazing luck there!

  4. Nice yarn, Cobba.

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