Justin Holmes provides an intimate look into his yearly summer job as one of the ballpersons at the US Open, a grand slam tennis event held in New York City.
Justin Holmes first tried out to be a US Open ballperson when he was 14 years old. Admittedly, he was nervous. Scared out of his mind. His emotions got the best of him, affecting his throwing, retrieving and movement.
“I thought it was a disaster,” Holmes says.
Contrary to his own beliefs, Holmes did well enough to earn a callback. He was more confident this time around and, sure enough, earned a position during the three-week event held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY.
Today, Holmes, 20, is one of the veteran ballpersons at the the tournament, having worked more than 100 matches. He assists Tina Taps, US Open director of ballpersons, and her staff in finding the new crop of talent each year.
“I think a good ballperson first and foremost knows tennis,” says Holmes, a student at Boston College. “Tennis IQ is high so you understand the way a match works, you understand the points, you understand the way tennis goes. They’re athletic, they can be on court and do really well. Most importantly, a good ballperson has a good personality, a really good attitude; they’re just positive and work well with others.”
Much like his initial tryout, the New York City native let his nerves and emotions get the best of him during his early days as a ballperson. He was starstruck when being passed by some of the game’s legends: Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal. While Holmes doesn’t get starstruck anymore, that doesn’t mean he isn’t in awe of certain players showcasing their amazing abilities mere feet away.
“There are certain times you’re definitely left standing with your mouth open thinking, ‘I can’t believe he or she just did that; that’s amazing,’” he says.
Holmes explains that once someone has earned a spot as one of the select 275 ballpersons for a tournament, they are assigned courts based on their skill level. Obviously a first-timer won’t be standing behind Federer at the final on the storied Arthur Ashe Stadium court, but may get the Swiss maestro in earlier rounds.
Ballpersons develop a rapport with certain players, knowing their habits and idiosyncrasies like when he/she needs their towel or what certain hand gestures may suggest they are requesting.
“That makes the match go a lot smoother and faster for them and makes them more comfortable,” Holmes says. “Then you become a familiar face for them all the time. That’s how you get assigned.”
While certain ballpersons won’t stay with Federer the entire tournament, for example, he will see more friendly faces than not as he advances through each round.
For Holmes, a lifelong New Yorker and avid tennis player and fan, working as a ballperson at the US Open is the closest to being in the tournament without actually playing in it.
“Just the environment and being from New York, to me, it’s special,” he says. “There’s just something different about New York. Us New Yorkers know how to have a good time and we know how to be great fans, so winning here and attending the US Open is probably like no other experience you’ll have in your lifetime.”
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.