Son of tennis champion at the heart of Dubai's 'Ball Kid' initiative

Several aspiring youngsters go through a drill in their bid to be selected for the Ball Kids programme at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

by

Leslie Wilson Jr

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A ball kid performs his duties during the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship. — Supplied photo
A ball kid performs his duties during the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship. — Supplied photo

Published: Fri 24 Feb 2023, 9:28 PM

Last updated: Fri 24 Feb 2023, 9:30 PM

Shows like America’s Got Talent and the X Factor are not the only ones that adopt a lengthy screening, audition and training process before selecting candidates to have a shot at fame.

In Dubai, several aspiring youngsters go through a similar drill in their bid to be selected for the Ball Kids programme, a vital cog in the smooth running of tennis matches on the court.

Andreu Gimeno, Director of Tennis at the CF Tennis Academy who has supplied the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships with trained personnel since the 1990s, has been at the heart of this initiative for the past 12 years.

Gimeno, whose father Andres Gimeno won the French Open in 1972 at the age of 34 and made history by becoming the oldest first-time Grand Slam winner in the Open Era, helps his team identify 120 kids for their two-week expedition at the championships.

“Every year we have around 250 applicants and we need to select the best 120, which is very difficult because everybody does their best to get selected,” said Gimeno, who also doubles up as a professional coach at the CF Tennis Academy.

“Once selected the kids go through intense and comprehensive training for 12 to 14 weeks starting in November before they are certified and ready to go out on the court and do their stuff.

Andreu Gimeno
Andreu Gimeno

“Being a Ball Kid is all about teamwork, attentiveness and skills. They need to have a good understanding of the game and how it is scored. The key is to distribute the balls as the match goes on without distracting the players. They are there to be seen and also not seen,” he adds.

Gimeno asserts that people don’t give Ball Kids all that much credit although they play a big role in tennis matches.

“If you think about it, many tournaments are not using linesmen any more but ball kids are 100 per cent compulsory,” he says.

“We had a girl, Yara, who was rejected the first time she auditioned but was selected when she came back a year later. Today, she is a supervisor and a winner of the 2021 Ball Kind of the year, an initiative between the WTA, DDF and us."

Gimeno, who is from Barcelona but has chosen to make Dubai his home, has always been involved in tennis and is also a qualified tennis coach.

One of his proteges, Stefania Bojica, made history when she became the first female tennis player raised in the UAE to qualify for the Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Championships where she went on to beat World No 63 Danka Kovinic earlier this week.

“I had my academy in Spain and then I decided to come to Dubai and start a new project with Clarke Francis,’ Gimeno recalls.

“She (Stefania) always had potential and I believed that she would one day make her mark on the big stage and she did it this year.

“It’s very rewarding for coaches to see their students grow and achieve their potential. It reminded me a lot of my dad, who was such an inspiration for everyone in tennis during the seventies,” he adds.

“He always believed in himself, that’s why he won at Roland Garros even at the age of 34. He would never give up and that’s what I learned from him and what I pass on to my students.”

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