Unforgettable ATP World Tour Experience For Bella
Friday 11th December 2015
From Sunday 15 until Sunday 22 November, U5 pupil Bella Bowater had the opportunity to be a ‘Barclay Ball Kid’ at the Barclays ATP World Tour Tennis Finals, held at the O2 Arena in London.
Below, Bella shares her experience of the tournament and what she took away from the experience:
Barclays ATP World Tour Tennis Finals Tournament by Bella Bowater, U5
I was very lucky to have been picked from around 1,000 applicants, and then from 200 trialists, to be part of the final squad of 30 ball kids for The Barclays ATP Tennis Finals. During the October half-term, I had to attend a 6 day residential basecamp in Southampton. When I got there I was so nervous as I did not know anyone at all but I quickly settled in and I have made 29 new friends from all over the UK, many of whom I have already organised to see again in the Christmas holidays.
Barclays also included the 30 of us on their Life Skills Programme and we had a couple of coaching sessions whilst at Southampton. My CV is now written and I have had some invaluable interview training!
During the week of the ATP World Tennis Tour Finals towards the end of November, all 30 of us were staying at the Novotel hotel in Greenwich where we were picked up by minibuses and transported to the O2 arena every morning. Sometimes there were early starts, having to be on site at 8.00am but other mornings were a bit more relaxed when we started around 10.00am, however, the days were long as we often did not get back to the Novotel until around 11.00pm at night.
We were in teams of 6 and the first match that I was on court for was the very first match of the tournament, which was very nerve wrecking. I was shaking at first, at the sight of the 17,500 people who were watching the tennis (and me!) and then the idea that there were hundreds of thousands more watching at home on television all around the world. However, thankfully I got into it very quickly, remembering everything that I had been taught at the basecamp and quickly forgot about the crowds! The atmosphere inside the stadium was incredible including the cheering of the audience, the intensity and concentration of the players and loud music being played at all the intervals as well.
It was the most incredible experience of my life and one that I have learnt so much from and one that I will never forget. I play quite a lot of tennis, so for me, being so close to many of my idols (the top 8 seeded male tennis players from around the world were playing in the tournament together with the top 8 seeded male doubles players) was a dream come true and something that I never thought could happen and I am not likely to ever do it again. We also used the same entrance and exit as the players, which meant that I was often walking off right behind the players as they finished the match and then was able to get many autographs afterwards.
Many of the players were extremely kind but one of the things I had to learn to cope with was their mentality on court, which meant that they would rarely acknowledge me as they stay completely focused, however, whenever they came off court they were always so gracious and so thankful for the job we did and the support we gave. Rafael Nadal was by far my favourite and lived up to all the expectations I had of him and more and I was very lucky to have a full conversation with him after one of his matches!
I was also very fortunate to be on court for the singles final between Djokovic and Federer, which was absolutely incredible and I was also very lucky to have been right next to Djokovic in the photos with him, his trophy and all the Ball Kids right at the end of the tournament. This is an experience that I would urge anyone from the ages of 12-16 to go for, as it is an unforgettable experience and one that is beyond anything that I could have dreamed for. I have made great friends for life, learnt to enhance my teamwork skills, learnt how to work under pressure with great focus, learnt to be hugely dedicated with a positive attitude throughout and although I thought I was fit before, I am certainly very fit now!