Fans are outraged as they discover Australian Open ball kids DON’T get paid – despite working in searing heat and getting hit by 200kmh serves: ‘How is this not child exploitation?’
- Social media erupts after discovery that ballkids work for free
- Tennis fans say being a ballkid at Melbourne Park is child exploitation
- Others argue that it’s a great experience for diehard tennis fans
- Ballkids are strictly disciplined and work in extreme heat during event
Ball kids at the Australian Open face sweltering heat, tantrums from players, and the chance of being hit by tennis balls travelling more than 200km/h – yet none of them are paid a cent.
Social media erupted this week with the revelation that the youngest staff at Melbourne Park are all volunteers, with some fans believing the practice is child exploitation.
Ballkids at the Australian Open face sweltering heat, tantrums from players, and the chance of being hit by tennis balls travelling more than 200km/h – yet none of them are paid a cent
Social media erupted this week with the revelation that ball kids at Melbourne Park are all volunteers, with some fans believing the practice to be child exploitation
The silent stars of the event, who undergo a year-long selection process and intense training, have one of the toughest gigs in Australia during January – and some people think they should be getting paid.
‘How is this not child exploitation?’ commented a Reddit user.
‘Disgusting, I wonder how they get away with this. How is it legal?’ said another.
Ball kids at Wimbledon and the US Open are paid for their essential work, and the Australian Open did too up until 2008, when the kids were reclassified as volunteers.
Most youngsters who do the demanding job are diehard tennis fans and are happy to be working near their sporting heroes.
Most youngsters who do the demanding job are diehard tennis fans and are happy to be working near their sporting heroes (Andy Murray pictured taking selfie with ballkids in 2016)
Ball kids at Melbourne Park get a meal allowance, prize packs, and can keep their tournament uniforms.
Many people think it’s a great opportunity for kids, and don’t have problem with them working for free.
‘It would be child exploitation if they were being paid – they’re too young to be employed,’ said one Reddit user.
‘They’re kids who are passionate about tennis being given a money-can’t-buy opportunity to see how the best players in the world go about it. It’s an awesome initiative and it’s a shame more tournaments don’t do the same thing.’
‘My son would pay to have the opportunity to be a ballboy at AO,’ said another.
Nadal (pictured) apologised to the kid for striking her with a tennis ball and described the moment as ‘one of the most scary moments’ he’d had on a tennis court
‘I was a ball kid in the early 2000’s and it’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever done, didn’t earn a cent but got heaps of free s***, food and made some great friends,’ said a third.
The job does come with its share of dangers, which one kid found out in 2020 when Rafael Nadal accidentally blasted her in the head with a return shot.
Nadal apologised to the kid with a kiss on the cheek and described the moment as ‘one of the most scary moments’ he’d had on a tennis court.
At this year’s event Nadal became clearly agitated during his first-round match when he discovered a ballkid had taken one of his rackets. Nadal is well known for his particular mannerisms during tennis matches including the order or his water bottles – and tennis rackets.
Nick Kyrgios was forced to make an apology last year after a racket he threw in a fit of rage following a loss almost hit a nearby ball boy.
The Aussie said sorry on social media, sharing screenshots of a text exchange with the boy and promising to give him a racket.