Tennis

Indian Ballkids in Australian Open 2020

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Ten Ballkids from India, among 38 from counties other than Australia, are a part of the year’s first Grand Slam

Kia Motors India announced the winners of the Australian Open Ballkids India Programme 2020 at Kia Beat 360, their experience centre in Gurugram. The final squad, 10 kids between the ages of 13 to 15, were chosen and will be a part of a group of 360. This is the second year for the programme in India.

During a tennis match, Ballkids retrieve loose balls, feed balls for service, and assist players. They have an important role in ensuring that tournaments run smoothly. “Many professional players have also been Ballkids, Roger Federer and John McEnroe included,” says Aditya B. M. V., 14, from Hyderabad, a Ballkid who’s a national-level player. “It’s a great opportunity,” he says, to meet the pros and experience a Grand Slam at close quarters.

The squad left for Australia right after the programme, on their fully-sponsored three-week trip. They will be trained at Melbourne with 28 other international Ballkids from Korea, China, and France, before finally taking part in the Australian Open 2020.

“The victory’s still sinking in,” says Sanskruti’s mother, whose daughter has been playing tennis since she was four. Sanskruti Vadakattu, 14,from Hyderabad, is one of only two girls selected from India.

“It’s a dream ‘made’ true” says Yashvardhan Gaur, 15, one of the two Ballkids from Chandigarh. “We worked hard for it.” The process began with young tennis enthusiasts being asked to upload videos online showing their Ballkid-skills. Over 250 kids from 10 cities were selected based on their videos. They were further tested for athleticism, rolling, and servicing technique, and also for on-court communication, among other skills. Then, 100 were shortlisted, before the final 10 were chosen.

Kia Motors, sponsor of the Australian Open since 2002, sees itself as a global custodian of sports. In 2018, they had chosen two boys from India to be Official Match Ball Carriers at the FIFA World Cup, where they were automotive partners. The Ballkids programme for next year’s Australian Open is likely to open early this November.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 12:33:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/tennis/indian-ballkids-in-australian-open-2020-tennis-dreams/article30574339.ece

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