Ridgefield tennis player reflects on U.S. Open experience

Hidden but in control.

That’s the role of the ballperson at the U.S. Open.

“The ball people are the one’s handling the match,” said Ridgefield High School sophomore Moera Kamimura. “They couldn’t play the match without them.”

Kamimura would know from experience as she served in that capacity for several U.S. Open matches in late August and early September.

“I did the Connecticut Open last year and decided to give the U.S. Open a try this year,” she said. “I was really happy when I made it. There are 500 kids trying out and only 100 to 150 make it.”

Kamimura, who also plays tennis on the school’s junior varsity team, said she first became intrigued by the ballperson position when she was young.

“I was watching tennis and I was just curious about the people running back and forth on the court,” she said. “My mom told me it was someone’s job and that’s when I started wanting to do it.”

Rolling the ball is Kamimura’s favorite part of her job.

“It’s where I’m most confident, where I practiced and performed the best at in my tryouts,” she said. “Tossing the ball is my biggest challenge.”

She tried out for the role in June, driving down to Flushing, N.Y.

“That was my first tryout,” she said. “I got called back to the next round and eventually made it through to the final tryout.”

After tryouts came three training sessions in late July and early August. Each training session was 90 minutes long.

“We practiced rolling and tossing accuracy and efficiency at the first one,” Kamimura said. “Then we went over the format of a regular match and then tiebreakers. Tiebreakers are complex at first. You want to be able to get it right in case it happens during the tournament.”

Despite all the running on TV, a ballperson who works the back line doesn’t have to worry about speed.

“There’s two positions — at net and at back,” Kamimura explained. “At the practices they were testing to see if you were better at one or the other. I guess I was better at rolling the balls and handing out the towels because I was placed at back and there wasn’t as much running. ... If you’re placed at net you have to spring a lot.”

At the Open

She enjoyed working at back during the tournament.

“You’re making sure the players have enough balls, and that’s important,” Kamimura said. “... You’re also handing them towels and you get to see the players up close. I think that’s really cool.”

“... It’s a fun and exciting place to be for me ... an amazing opportunity to be among the top players in the world who are all playing tennis really well.”

One of the aspects of the sports she likes the most is the sportsmanship, which she got to witness firsthand on the court.

“I’m fascinated by tennis and the people who play it,” she said.

While working the event, Kamimura got to see Naomi Osaka play up close.

She also got to see Venus Williams warming up before a match.

“That was a really cool experience,” she said. “Not everyone gets to have that experience.”

Love of the game

Kamimura wasn’t always into tennis

She didn’t take classes or play tennis on a team until a few years ago but remembers playing in the park when she was younger with her family.

“My mom used to play in high school and we played but I just got into it again recently ... I was so happy when I made the JV team last spring,” she said. “I want to try out again and hope to make it again because I love watching and playing tennis.”

Get there early

Working the U.S. Open tournament taught Kamimura some important lessons about preparation.

“On an average day, I’d work three matches and you’d have one-hour on and off shifts. If you were on the ‘A’ shift like me you’d arrive at 10 a.m. ... I liked getting there early to prepare and check in.”

She entered the venue with an official credential that allowed her certain access to points in the stadium.

“They had a ballperson lounge for us and they had spaces for other workers and players,” she said. “It was cool to see everything going on around us.”

She stayed on the same court most days, and her interactions with players were mostly brief.

“The main priority for a ballperson is to fulfill the needs of the player,” she said. “They need to get back to playing so there’s not much being said.”

Words might not have been exchanged but Kamimura learned from being in such close proximity to some of the best players in the world — and that’s why she wants to be back there again next year.

“I want to be there again,” she said. “I’ll be practicing my rolling and tossing for next year.”