Would You Like a Ball, Ana?

On the Baseline Tennis News
March 14, 2009

Desirae Krawczyk

INDIAN WELLS, California—Greetings from the desert. It’s Friday the 13th. (Sorry, I had to bring it up.)

For better or for worse, second round action is heating up the courts today, and no one is more lucky to be on stadium court than Desirae Krawczyk. No, she’s not Amelie Mauresmo’s opponent, although she wishes she were.

Desirae is a player-in-training–otherwise known as a ball girl. She is one of six pint-sized players lucky enough to be on stadium court today at the BNP Paribas Open. Lucky, given that she was chosen from 200 other ball kids to work on the big stage. She must have quick feet.

Desirae, a high school freshman from Rancho Mirage, California is a veteran ball girl, who got her start at the BNP Paribas Open five years ago. Let’s just say, she’s learned a few things from being so close to the top 10 players in the world.

Desirae has been able to hone her tennis skills to become a top-level junior player. She is currently ranked No. 10 in California in the 16s and No. 29 nationally in the 16s.
Desirae got an early start in tennis, picking up her first racquet at the age of two. By age seven, she was playing competitively.

I caught up with Desirae at the tournament after a long day on the courts.

How often do you play tennis?
“I play tennis every day, and I play tournaments every week. To watch these pros is just really fun.”

Do you see yourself out there one day on stadium court as a pro?
“I have a lot of family and friends saying that it’s my turn to be here next year. I have the potential, and they believe in me, and I believe in myself.”

Do you think you will go onto college or are you still thinking about turning pro before you turn 18?
“I’m debating. I want to go pro, but want to go to college too.”

Do you ever get a chance to hit with the pros at all?
“Not really. On court you really can’t talk to them. Although just recently, there was a Desert Smash tournament. I had to hit one ball. Bob or Mike Bryan (not sure which—I can’t tell them apart!) gave me his racquet and asked if I wanted to play.”

Who’s your favorite female player?
“Definitely Ana Ivanovic. She started young. Watching her has inspired me to play more and get better.”

Desirae Krawczyk
What about your favorite male player?
“Novak Djokovic”, she says with a giggle. “He’s just really cute. His sense of humor makes him the best.”

What about autographs? You must have quite a collection.
“I have pictures and autographs of everyone in the top 10.”

Any advice on proper techniques for rolling a ball on court?
“Get low on your knees, and roll it like a bowling ball. You can’t chuck the ball. It could end up anywhere.”

What position do you play on court?
“I usually play any position as a ball girl. I’m pretty good at NET.”
FYI - ball kid positions are either “NETS” or “BACKS”. The NET position retrieves all balls that land in or around the net. The BACK position feeds balls to the player when he/she is ready to serve.

Has any player ever thrown a sweaty towel at you?
“Yes! David Nalbandian…last year. It was drenched in sweat. It was pretty gross. One really nice player I’ve seen is James Blake. He is always saying thank you. I got to meet his Mom and tell her ‘Your son is so nice. He’s so polite."

What have you learned from your experience as a ball girl?
“Being a ball kid is definitely good way to chase your dream of becoming a pro. You can see the techniques that they (the pros) have that you need to have to become pro. When I’m on the court, I just want to play for them, especially when they’re down on themselves.”
It won’t be too long before you see Desirae Krawczyk on stadium court at the BNP Paribas Open, swinging a racquet instead of rolling balls. If it happens, she promised to grant me an interview.

I guess we’re both pretty lucky.

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