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Ball boys and girls face up to stars’ quirky habits at Wimbledon

The team of youngsters has a list of players’ on-court preferences.

Wimbledon’s ball boys and girls have encountered more players with quirky habits this year, their manager has said.

The team behind the ball boys and girls (BBGs) have a list of players’ on-court preferences, according to head of training Sarah Goldson.

But the training programme for the 250 youngsters might have to be adapted to meet the increasing and changing demands of tennis players.

Ms Goldson, the PE teacher who oversees the group, said the BBGs must “adapt to the players, their idiosyncrasies, and what they do”.

Sarah Goldson said players' quirks may have to be incorporated into ball boy training (Andrew Matthews/PA)

She said: “We could build that into the training programme, where we just throw something in that’s slightly random, because we’ve seen a few more different things this year.”

She added: “We do say to them that, obviously apart from their own safety, the player is the priority, so they are there, within reason, to do what the player asks them to do.”

Spain’s Rafael Nadal came under fire last week when footage emerged of him giving a ball boy a piece of litter.

The youngster took the rubbish and put it in the bin, which was situated next to the sitting player.

Ms Goldson said that it was within the BBGs’ job description to take litter from a player, adding that they often take the plastic bag from a player’s new racket and put it in the bin.

Rafael Nadal lines up his drinks bottles (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Nadal is famous for his idiosyncrasies – writing for the Telegraph, he once explained his habit of taking sips from different water bottles.

“I put the two bottles down at my feet, in front of my chair to my left, one neatly behind the other, diagonally aimed at the court,” he said.

Other players’ habits include only wanting to be given a ball from a particular corner, and wanting a ball back they have just hit a winner from for their next serve.

According to the New York Times, American player Jack Sock likes the BBGs on each side to have three balls.

He once said after a match: “At one point one had four and the other had two, and I got broken in that game. So I talked to them to make sure they knew to keep it at three and three.”

Jack Sock of the US is particular about how many balls the youngsters have ready (Alastair Grant/AP/PA)

French player Adrian Mannarino was fined 9,000 US dollars (£7,000) in the first week of Wimbledon after barging into a ball boy.

When he was admonished by the umpire, the 29-year-old said: “What did I do? I was just passing by. We were shoulder to shoulder.

“It’s a joke. I’m hurting myself just not to hurt (him) and you give me a warning. Ball kids are the priority right? I cannot walk to my chair?”

Ms Goldson said: “We say to the BBGs they’re just there to do a job. We say with the players, if they lose their tempers it’s not about you personally as long as you’re doing what you’re expected to do.”


From Belfast Telegraph