By Jacob Aframian
Volume 69, Issue I
The U.S. Open has been a staple of summer television for decades. Starting in August and running through September, millions of people tune in to watch or come to New York to see one of the biggest tennis tournaments in the world. Jolie Wasserman, a sophomore at Briarcliff High School, was selected to be
part of an elite group of boys and girls who had the honor of serving as ballboys and ballgirls at the tournament.
“A few years ago, I was watching the U.S. Open and realized that the duties of a ballperson, as they call it, are right in my wheelhouse. Ball boys and girls needed to have an outstanding throwing arm, quick reflexes along with speed, and knowledge of tennis,” says Wasserman, adding that she “researched about how to be accepted as a ball girl on the U.S. Open’s website.” She initially began to investigate the process as a thirteen year old, but to her disappointment, she discovered that all ballpersons have to be at least fourteen years old.
The try-out process was quite long and intense, according to Wasserman. “The tryouts are held each June at the U.S. Open grounds. Around 500 people tryout per year for anywhere from 80 to 130 open spots, depending on the year. If you make the cut of the first tryout, you are invited for callbacks a few weeks later. After that round of tryouts, the remaining are invited to work the qualifying week and hopefully the rest of the tournament,” she explained.
This was Wasserman’s second time serving as a ball girl, and she added that as a returner, she had a higher position within the ranks. “[I was] able to climb the totem pole this year, as I was a returning veteran instead of a rookie, [so I was] able to be on much higher profile courts this year as I had gained more experience.”
Jolie was a ball girl for two of the highest ranked and most famous tennis players in the world: Novak Djokovik (who was playing against Joao Sousa, and then Kei Nishikori in the semifinals), as well as for Serena Williams.
“One of the best tasks that I got as a ball girl was when Del Potro was playing Isner, and Juan Martin handed me his rackets to be restrung. Apparently, I was caught on tv asking Del Potro what tension he wanted for his rackets. I then ran off to the stringers’ room with the rackets. I got to go through the players’ hallway to get to the stringers. The stringers are very fast at their job. They can crank out two rackets in around 15 minutes. It interested me to get a behind the scenes look on how the players get their rackets strung” added Wasserman. Overall, it was an incredible experience for her. She also explained, “When I was on the side courts, I didn’t have any nerves, yet I still ran with the same intensity as I was on the finals in Ashe. Before my first match on Ashe, I was fairly nervous that I even made a mistake on the first possible moment one could make a mistake. It was on the burst when all the ball people run out onto the court at once when the players put down their bags. When I was called out on the Serena Williams match, I didn’t really believe it because it is usually only the most senior ball people who get that job. After the first couple of games, I wasn’t even thinking about the thousands of people watching. By the time the semifinals with Djokovic came around, I felt as I belonged on the court, and I had a sense of confidence.”