Russian tennis ace Maria Sharapova gave the 380 ball kids at the upcoming Australian Open (January 19-February 1) in Melbourne yesterday a huge surprise when she turned up for their traditional photoshoot at the Rod Laver Arena.
Say cheese: Russia's Maria Sharapova and Australia's Thanasi Kokkinakis pose for a photo with the ball kids of the Australian Open at Melbourne Park yesterday. Pic/Getty Images
The kids were overwhelmed to see Sharapova (27) and talented Australian teenager Thanasi Kokkinakis (18) join in for a picture perfect moment.
Both players posed for a series of group photographs with the enthusiastic youngsters, who thereafter swarmed the stars with requests for selfies too.
Later, they launched tennis balls into the crowd much to the appreciation of the fans in the stands. Sharapova and Thanasi then went on to express their gratitude to the bunch of youngsters for their tireless effort during the year's first Grand Slam.
"I'm so happy to be back, you make our experience so much better," said Sharapova. "I appreciate everything you do. I know I don't want to run around for five hours picking up balls," said Thanasi.
Ball kids, normally between the age of 11-17, are handpicked by organisers from hundreds of applications received, wherein recruiters look for good hand-eye
coordination and agility among other factors.
The youngsters are not paid for their work, but get to watch the world's top tennis stars from the best seats in the house.