Some had never been on a tennis courts, others had only seen a video of what they were about to do. They came from either end of the Island — hundreds of them — for only about 80 spots. They sprinted after dribbled balls, with the pressure of knowing the entire world could potentially watch them do this.
Almost 500 people of all ages came to the U.S. National Tennis Center on Thursday, June 21 to see if they had what it takes to be an official U.S. Tennis Ballperson. The try-outs came in the midst of the summer’s first heat wave, but officials said it gave a glimpse at what late August — when the U.S. Open takes place — would feel like.
Luca Bozzo, from Park Slope, came with his parents to not only seek a summer job, but for the unique experience.
“It would be really cool to be part of the U.S. Open” he said. “To get to see the players up close, that would be a tremendous thing.”
Luca, 15, said he wasn’t much of a tennis player, but enjoyed watching it on TV — listing superstar Roger Federer as one of his favorites.
The program, which employs about 80-90 people ages 14 and up, is an experience that lasts in the memories of those who take part, said Tina Taps, director of the U.S. Open Ballpersons.
The veterans who have taken part for several years cannot wait for the National Championship to start, Taps said, and compare its start to a countdown for school to end.
“They can’t wait to do it again,” she said, “and what’s wonderful about that is they mentor the younger kids.”
Taps said she was not concerned about the weather — trainers were on call and water coolers had been set up around the center — and instead thought it would give the potential ballpeople a glimpse of what the actual open weather would be like.
“The heat is a good thing because this is what it’s like during the tournament,” she said “So if they can handle it today, they’ll know what they’re up against in terms of heat.”
Jacob Uihlein came all the way from Centerport, Long Island to try out for a spot. Uihlein, 37, said his friend, who works at the Open every year, recommended the night before that he try out.
“I never really knew there were try outs,” he said.
An lover of the outdoors, Uihlein said he wasn’t too concerned about the near-100 degree weather affecting his abilities.
“I should’ve put on some sunblock,” he mused, as beads of sweat dripped from his chin.