The yellow ball on the fly

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They are between 12 and 14 years old. They are volunteers. And make life easier for players on the tennis courts. Léo, Simon and Cléa are among the twenty or so bullets pickers at Master’U BNP Paribas. Meet.


You have to be always focused, always attentive. Throughout the match“. Cléa summed up in one sentence the role of the ball-gatherers. Always be ready when you need them. The three collectors practice tennis in the region. Leo and Simon have already tried the experience in 2016. This is a first for Cléa. “I made the selections for Roland-Garros. I was not taken but I was offered to do this tournament, “she says, delighted. This year, only eight teams of three collectors are present on the tournament. “He lacks the world. Last year, there were eight teams of six, “said Leo. Friday, no pickup was on the court. “I wanted to do it, but there were not enough people so it was canceled.” The main reason: “we had school”.


Learn from the greats

Former Roland-Garros ball collectors cap the new Master’U. They have a very precise organization. “Two at each post of the net. Then four in the baseline, at the four corners. Explains Simon. “When we are six,” adds Leo. As soon as a ball is on the field, the “nets” will pick it up. If it is a “bottom of court” that picks it up, “we pass the balls to the nets and then give them to the players”. Four balls are used during a match of the Master’U. “To serve, some players want four, others three, others two.” The pickers offer. The player decides. “We adapt,” says Cléa. How do players choose their ball? “They’re watching the writing on the ball, thinks you’ve guessed Leo. If it is worn, they do not take it. What pleases Simon, “is the proximity to the players. We learn new gestures by looking at them “.


A real job

All five games, the pickers turn to rest. “Because it’s pretty tiring anyway. ” The hardest ? “To be net. It hurts the legs. We are crouching all the time. And you have to have strong fingers because you’re always leaning on it, “warns Leo. Cléa adds: “as soon as there is a ball in the net, you have to sprint. You have to be as fast as possible so as not to disturb the players. Inside the room where they practice, it is almost as cold as outside. But that does not seem to bother the three young people. “The organization offered us uniforms that are hot.” Simon opens his jacket, proof to support. “And then by running, we warm up. It is also time for the three collectors to return to the court. At the service of the players.


Juliette Michenaud
Photo: Denis Couvelard