Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Shepparton ball kids ready for action

If you are watching the Australian Open action in the coming weeks, keep your eyes open for some familiar faces in the blue hats.

HANNAH DRISCOLL January 9, 2013 4:05am

If you are watching the Australian Open action in the coming weeks, keep your eyes open for some familiar faces in the blue hats.

Shepparton’s Jordon Butts, Emily Balaburov, Olivia Quigley, Michael Romeo, Angus Hicks, Geoffrey Thompson and Angus Press are among more than 380 ball kids selected to take part in the Grand Slam tournament.

The vast majority of the ball kids are from Victoria, but some are from interstate and there are also children from South Korea and China taking part.

The main draw begins on Monday, but the ball kids’ duties will begin today with the qualifying rounds.

This is the first time 13-year-old Butts has been selected to be a ball kid.

Applicants must be aged between 12 and 15 years old and pass several training stages before being selected.

Butts first tried out at Wangaratta before going to Melbourne and also travelled to Melbourne for trainings on Sundays after he was selected.

He said the ball kids were presented with their hats yesterday during orientation and had their photo taken with Frenchman Jo Wilfred Tsonga.

He also saw world No.1 and defending champion Victoria Azarenka hitting up on Hisense Arena during a tour of Melbourne Park.

Butts said it would be great if he saw 17-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer.

‘‘I’m really looking forward to it. It will be a great experience for me and it will be fun getting close to the players,’’ he said.

Mooroopna Lawn Tennis Club coach Mark Mills is a ball kids operations team manager for the tournament and said the ball kids were ‘‘really keen to get out on the court’’.

He said the ball kids were graded on their performance each day and the better they do, the better their chance of being scheduled for the main courts or the finals.

‘‘The kids who have been selected have done an exceptionally good job to make it this far and should be proud of what they’ve done,’’ Mills said.

‘‘Most of the kids play tennis and I am sure they will really get a lot out of being down there at ground level and actually seeing how hard some of those players hit the ball and how fast they move.’’

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