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US Open ballpeople can often forget they are regularly on national television after the completion of a sometime grueling day at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
Chirag Jethanandani got a tangible and memorable reminder of the high-profile nature of the job following Rafael Nadal’s opening match Aug. 26.
The Elmhurst native turned on his phone after the Nadal win to see more than 30 texts and a slew of posts on his Facebook and Twitter accounts. Jethanandani, 20, had just appeared on television around the world during the top play on ESPN’s SportsCenter that night.
The St. Francis Prep alumnus and current Fordham University junior can be seen handing Nadal a towel after the 12-time Grand Slam winner’s running smash down the line for a winner.
Jethanandani called being a part of it “unbelievable.”
“It’s just crazy how when you are on a big court — Ash, Louie [Armstrong] or even Grandstand — when it’s on TV, it’s all over the media,” he said.
The few seconds of fame brought his six-year stint as a ballperson to the attention of new people outside his close friends and family. He said he even received a text message from St. Francis Prep security director Mike Fischetti, who had fun with his stardom.
“He goes, ‘Oh, big shot. I see you working Nadal’s match. Look at that perfect towel form,’” Jethanandani said.
For him, though, being a ballperson is serious business. He has worked his way toward being on court for a number of the US Open’s biggest matches. He has worked the men’s singles semifinals the last three years and is hoping to work the final this time around. Jethanandani has been with Nadal, Serena Williams, Sloane Stevens, Andy Murray and John Isner so far in 2013.
He said the job requires physical and mental skills. You need to be in shape to stand for three to four hours at time. You need to be focused on keeping the correct number of balls available to the players and knowing which players, like Nadal, want a towel after every point.
“After the players, we are working the hardest,” Jethanandani said.
For him it’s also a chance to be close to a sport he grew up watching with his father Chris when he was 9. Jethanandani never played tennis competitively. He actually found out about the chance to be a ballperson from a friend during a baseball game in Forest Hills back in 2008.
Jethanandani follows tennis closely and the US Open is something he looks forward to even knowing a return to college classes follows it. The job has its perks, as he learned.
“When you’re on the court,” Jethanandani said, “you are not only a ballboy for the best players in the world, you also get a chance to be on TV.”
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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