FOR any aspiring tennis star, being selected to ballkid at the Australian Open alongside the world’s greats is something pretty special.
But, being given the honour two years in a row, and to be the only one from Bendigo – that’s something else.
Year 11 student Taine Lang is currently packing his bags to spend two weeks on Melbourne Park’s iconic blue courts, a journey that’s taken a year of training, hard work and dedication.
But, despite being part of last year’s ballkidding squad, Lang said it wasn’t automatic entry this year.
“I had a good feeling, but I wasn’t 100 per cent sure, they do say that not everyone makes it,” he said.
He said having one-year under his belt would serve him well for his upcoming fortnight on court.
“From last year I’ve learnt to read the play a bit better and predict my moves, and think ahead,” he said.
“I feel like it should be better this year because I’ve done it before, it should be a bit more enjoyable, a little less uncertainty.”
Lang is well known on Bendigo’s courts as both a player and ballkid, and said that helping out locally has treated him well for his Australian Open appearances.
“When I rocked up to the first trainings for the Australian Open, I knew a little bit about it because I’d done it in the Bendigo Pro Tour, and I understood what ballkids were supposed to do,” he said.
“You don’t have to learn from scratch as much, as you have a base understanding.”
The open is set to be an ace of a time for the 15 year-old, as he hopes to repeat last year’s success of ballkidding to world number three Roger Federer on Rod Laver Arena.
“This year I’m hoping to get some more good players, and have another great experience,” he said.
“Ballkidding for any the Aussies would be great or anyone from the top 10, either men or women.”
And the feeling of stepping on court? Lang describes it as something surreal.
“It’s something that you can’t really imagine,” he said.
“The crowds are so much bigger when you get to the main tournament, and the players expect a bit more quality service, you can’t really be slacking off as much.”
This year marks the last time Lang is eligible to be involved as a ballkid, and so his mantra for the fortnight is to get in there, and give it his all.
“I just want to leave nothing to regret later,” he said.
The Australian Open hits off on Monday and runs until January 27.