For the first time in Parkes’ known tennis history, four young women were selected as ball kids for an international tennis tournament.
Lily McCormick (12) and 14-year-olds Maddy McCormick, Abbey Kennedy and Nia Boggs have been playing tennis for most of their young lives.
And since March last year, they were offered – thanks to the encouragement of Parkes tennis coach Helen Magill – the opportunity no one in Parkes has experienced yet.
The girls were selected as ball kids for the Sydney International tennis tournament from January 5 until January 10, which is a lead-up tournament to the Australian Open attracting players from around the world.
“It was a big commitment from the girls and their families,” Helen said.
“Applications came out prior to March and then there was a trial process.
“It’s about giving our country kids as many opportunities as we can through the sport.
“And letting them know there are other things they can do in the sport – like Abbey attended a Future Leaders workshop and her and Maddy did the community coaching course.”
The girls attended several training sessions to be ball kids throughout 2018, travelling to Forster, Homebush in Sydney, Dubbo and Bathurst.
Less than 100 kids were selected to be ball kids for the Sydney International – 30 of those coming from the Central West.
“The training usually lasted a day and we practised throwing and rolling,” Abbey said.
“We were also the ball kids for practice tennis matches so we could learn – for example we were ball kids in Forster for the men’s and women’s AMT (Australian Money Tournament) finals.”
The quartet was excited to be finally heading to Sydney Olympic Park at the start of the year, with their days beginning from 11am with signing in, games beginning at 12pm and working until matches were finished.
Their experience began with the qualifying rounds on January 5 and the major tournament beginning January 6.
“Every day there was a rain delay so I didn’t finish until 12.30am one night,” Nia said.
“I was tired!”
But it was one of Nia’s biggest highlights – working on the famous Ken Rosewall Arena (KRA) until 12.30am.
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On the KRA – which along with Show Court 1, was the main arena and which was televised – Nia had the opportunity to be a ball kid for Australian professional tennis players Samantha Stosur, Alex Bolt, Matt Reid and Alex de Minaur, and Britain siblings Jamie and Andy Murray.
“It was scary, we didn’t know what we were doing because the training wasn’t thorough,” Nia said.
“But we got into the hang of it...I was on the net twice.
“I dropped a guy’s towel a few times,” she laughed.
“And I stood in the middle of a match because I didn’t realise they had started serving, that was embarrassing.”
Nia said she really enjoyed the experience.
Lily had an unusual highlight to her time as a ball kid at the Sydney International.
“I got to smell Daria Gavrilova’s sweat because she threw her towel in my face,” she laughed.
“I don’t think she meant to do it but that was my favourite moment because she’s famous.”
Lily was also a ball kid for Italian professional Andreas Seppi.
“It was a pretty good experience, because we don’t get to do things like that and we got to meet great players,” Lily said.
Big sister Maddy had the honour of being ball kid for Alex Bolt and Matt Reid as well, but also for Puerto Rican professional tennis player and reigning Olympic champion Monica Puig.
“Every day we swapped around with other ball kids so at some point we (Lily, Maddy, Nia and Abbey) got to be with one another and other Central West friends,” Maddy said.
“We also made new friends,” Lily added.
Maddy said she didn’t have a particular favourite moment from the Sydney International.
“It was more just the experience of being so close to them (the world’s best players) and being able to do something like that,” she said.
Meanwhile, Abbey was a ball kid for Andreas Seppi too, as well as Romanian professional tennis player Simona Halep, Australian tennis player Ashleigh Barty and Greek professional Stefanos Tsitsipas.
“It was a really good experience because you got to go on the KRA and you were able to get up close to world class players,” Abbey said.
“The stadium was really bouncy – it was so energetic and the crowd was just so loud, you could hear it from the other courts.”
Something that Abbey found difficult, she said, was trying not to dance when the songs came on during matches and she’d hear one of her favourite songs.
Her highlight was working on KRA and managing to get Ashleigh Barty’s towel and sweat band when Barty threw them into the crowd after Abbey had finished her ball kid duties.
All four girls had been hit by the ball at some stage during their time on court.
“It was hard! It was travelling fast and it hurt a little,” Abbey said.
The girls remained in Sydney with their families until January 12, watching a match between Sloane Stephens from America and Kazakh tennis player Yulia Putintseva and some Fast Forward Tennis.
“I was so excited to give these girls the opportunity and a big thank you to the support of their families who helped it come to fruition,” Helen said.
“Because it wouldn’t happen without them.”