When Melbourne trotted out its true summer weather at the start of the Australian Open earlier this week, it wasn’t just the players, fans and umpires who stoically faced the heat.
Also in the sun were the younger grand slam volunteers – the ballkids. One of them was Patrick Cartwright.
“Yea, it gets tougher as the day gets hotter,” he said. “Then you definitely need to make more effort to concentrate for longer amounts of time. I make sure to keep hydrated and just try to stay with the game as best I can.”
The 14-year-old Sydneysider is among the 380 ballkids aged between 12 and 15 who made the cut from over 2,500 international applicants to earn a coveted place on this year's Australian Open ballkid squad.
So how does a ballkid prove himself or herself in order to be accepted for such a prestigious event?
“You need to have good focus and be able to concentrate on court and on the scores for long periods of time. You also need to move fast around the court to make sure the match goes smoothly, and look after your players well.”
This is Patrick’s second stint as a ballkid. His first was at the Apia International in Sydney last year. Does he still get nervous? There's long pause at the other end of the line as he considers the question.
“Yea, I still get nervous. Mainly when there's a massive crowd cheering for the players. You feel the pressure to be perfect.”
Earning a place on the squad is first step for the ballkids. The next – and bigger one – is being chosen for the high profile centre court matches.
A place on that shortlisted squad is every ballkid's dream and while Patrick has his fingers crossed, he has already collected some fantastic experiences to take back to Sydney.
“The Australian Open is amazing! I’ve made so many new friends and I love watching all the best players on court together. It’s a great opportunity to get closer to them and learn more.”
One player he’s hoping to get close enough to for an autograph is former World No. 1, Roger Federer. At the time of this interview, Patrick had been on court with players the likes of Sam Querrey and Lucie Safarova, and had met the Williams sisters who dropped by the annual squad photo session.
“We didn’t get autographs from Serena and Venus but they hung around to talk to us and told us how great it is to be a ballkid at this tournament.”
Does that mean he'll be back again next year?
“I definitely want to come back! The atmosphere here is too amazing to miss!”