Sports / Tennis

Chinese 'ball kids' to attend Australian Open

By Sun Xiaochen ( Updated: 2016-01-06 20:27

The world's top tennis action will be able to thrill more Chinese children from up close thanks to the extension of the youth exchange program between local tournament China Open and the Australian Open.

With the 2016 Australian Open, the first Grand Slam event on the global tennis calendar, just around the corner, 28 junior enthusiasts, including six "ball kids", who make an appearance at the beginning of tennis matches, from China have been packing for a trip to Melbourne to serve and enjoy the tournament while interacting with their peers in Australia.

The program was announced by China Open organizers on Wednesday at the Australian Embassy as an extension of the existing youth cooperation between the two events.

Liu Mingqiu, vice-president of China Open, expects the program could help inspire greater interest in tennis among Chinese youth.

"Sending our ball kids to serve the Australian Open over the years has shown the competency and knowledge of China's young tennis enthusiasts. Involving more kids through the new initiative will build on that to further ignite the passion for the sport," he said.

Michael Sadlier, acting deputy head of mission at the Australian Embassy, echoed Liu, saying that the program will be a highlight of China-Australia people-to-people exchanges.

After signing a partnership with the Australian Open in 2012, China Open, the biggest tennis tournament in Asia, has sent 18 ball kids to serve the Grand Slam event and experience the tennis culture in Melbourne over the past three years.

This year will be the first time an additional 22 children join six well-trained ball kids on the tour to take part in a wider range of activities including a youth tennis training camp, visits to local schools and a junior tournament.

The 22 lucky children were selected from schools in Beijing, which offer tennis training as part of their physical education curricula on a youth program jointly founded by China Open and the Soong Ching Ling Foundation.

Dou Jiayuan, a ball girl who served the tournament last year, said the journey to Melbourne opened her eyes.

"It's really a once-in-a-lifetime experience to work for a Grand Slam tournament and learn how professionally the tournament is organized. I also made some foreign friends during the tour, which was so impressive," she said.

Liu Xingrun, deputy director of Chinese Tennis Association's executive office, said such exchange programs will be introduced more in China to strengthen the growth of the game's popularity in the country.

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