Parkes ball kids enjoy ace experience at ATP Cup

From mopping up sweat and being yelled at to holding bloody towels and picking up broken racquets and bugs off the court - there's more to being a ball kid than just throwing and collecting balls.

But ask any of the six teenagers from Parkes who were selected to be ball kids at this year's inaugural ATP Cup, they had a great experience and described it as fun and exciting.

It's the second time the Parkes Tennis Club's junior players have had the opportunity to be ball kids at a major tournament.

With two returning to duty after a taste at the Sydney International in 2019 - Maddy McCormick and Abbey Kennedy, who are now both 15 - first-timers this year included Gabe Goodrick (13), Mitch Unger (13), Ethan Hunt (13) and Joseph Tanswell (14).

The tournament was played across three Australian cities, including at Sydney Olympic Park, over 10 days from January 3-12 in the lead up to the Australian Open and featured teams from 24 countries.

The teenagers had been preparing for the Cup since March, beginning with trials and practice sessions held in Parkes, Dubbo and Bathurst.

Eighty ball kids in total were selected, with 30 of them coming from regional areas.

This figure was reduced to 48 come semi-finals' time, with Abbey, Maddy and Gabe making the cut and staying for an extra three days.

The job of a ball kid also involves carrying out players' bags, carrying the country flags and holding them during the national anthems, giving and collecting towels, cleaning up and picking up rubbish, bugs and other items off the court.

"I had to mop up Rafael Nadal's sweat, it was gross," Gabe said.

Abbey said she had some players blow their noses in the towels or there'd be blood on them.

"The worst part is when you had four balls in your hands and a towel in your arms," she laughed.

As for the yelling at, ball kids are taught not to show any emotion.

"You can get upset but you can't show it, we're not allowed to talk to them and we're not allowed to laugh," Maddy said.

"As tennis players ourselves, we get it (understand the yelling)," Abbey added.

"We know it's not personal," Gabe said.

The four boys making their debut were keen for the experience, that's why they put their hands up this year.

"We wanted the experience and to see all the good players in action," Gabe said.

Ethan was lucky enough to be a ball kid for players like Bulgarian player Grigor Dimitrov and Maron Cilic from Croatia.

"They were very tall and it was very nerve-racking because I wanted to do it right," he said.

"[A funny moment was] when I almost got run into by a tennis player and my parents were watching."

Mitch's favourite moment was being the ball kid for Dominic Thiem from Austria and doing the coin toss for one of his games.

And Joseph, he loved giving the towel to famous players such as Thiem and Dimitrov.

"Also having a good view of the matches," he said.

ACTION: Here Joseph Tanswell is about to throw the ball to Great Britain's Cameron Norrie. Photo: Submitted

ACTION: Here Joseph Tanswell is about to throw the ball to Great Britain's Cameron Norrie. Photo: Submitted

Gabe absorbed the atmosphere of players such as Nadal, Thiem, Serbian sensation Novak Djokovic, Russian player Daniil Medvedev, Argentine Diego Schwartzman and Aussies Nick Kyrgios and Alex de Minaur.

"My highlight was when Dominic said sorrys and thank yous, he was the nicest guy ever," Gabe said.

"Kyrgios was nice too.

"And I had photos with Lleyton Hewitt and John Millman."

"When Australia won against Great Britain, John Millman walked up the tunnel and gave us all high-fives," Abbey added.

"That was good," Gabe said.

For Abbey and Maddy - their second time was an entirely different experience.

"It was run in a different format - there was one court for the whole competition this time, plus a practice court," Abbey said.

"It was something different and there was more TV time, and more well-name players."

Last year, Maddy said they weren't on the main courts as often and didn't get to be ball kids for as many big names.

"It was more fun because it was teams this time," she said.

"The format was better and easier, they had day and night sessions... It wasn't as confusing."

Ball kids were either rostered on for a day or a night session, which usually included about three games a day, and if they had the night session they usually started at 4.30pm.

Six ball kids were on court at any one time and were rotated every 30-45 minutes.

"We couldn't leave until that session was finished or until the supervisor let us go, so we could be there until 2am some days," Gabe said.

When the kids weren't ball-kidding, they were at HQ at the netball centre socialising.

Parkes tennis coach Helen Magill has said the opportunity is great for showing junior players another side of the sport and how there is more than one way to be involved.

Joseph's parents Lindy and Graeme Tanswell were grateful the kids could be part of it.

"Graeme and I would like to thank Helen Magill for making it easier for country kids to have this very special opportunity of ball-kidding," Lindy said.

"A chance to experience tennis from a different perspective, not just playing the games.

"[We're] very proud of all these kids."

ALSO MAKING SPORTING NEWS: