The ATP has announced plans to abandon the practice of ball boys and girls handing towels to tennis players in between points. Instead it plans to install towel racks at the back of the court where players can help themselves as needed.
The measure has already been implemented at lower-rank events in order to try and speed-up play, and will be formally trailed at the upcoming NextGen Finals in Milan in November.
It follows an incident at the Shenzhen Open involving Spanish player Fernando Verdasco. Playing his semi-final against Yoshihito Nishioka, the Spaniard got frustrated about the length of time it took the ball boy to hand him his towel, and began berating him, urging him to run faster.
— doublefault28 (@doublefault28) September 29, 2018
Verdasco has got a previous record. Earlier this year, he threw his towel back at a ball boy during the Hamburg Open.
He is not the only offender though.
Novak Djokovic was warned by the umpire at Roland Garros this year for sniping at two ball boys, and French player Adrian Mannarino went one step further. He copped a £7,000 fine for barging into a ball boy at Wimbledon, and then asking why the boy should be treated with any more respect than him.
The answer to that question should be obvious.
Ball boys and girls are volunteers, and are doing it for nothing, whilst the stars who they hand the towels to, at the elite end of the game, at least, are multi-millionaires many times over.
In any other walk of life, if a very wealthy person treated somebody who was the opposite of them in terms of earning power with such disrespect and disdain in a public forum, there would be an outcry.
Yet some players are so conceited that they feel they can get away with such behaviour on a tennis court. It’s quite shocking then from the likes of Verdasco, Mannarino, and the others.
There is, of course, an essential paradox here. Tennis is a professional sport, but it relies on the services of unpaid volunteers like ball boys and girls to help tournaments function smoothly.
These volunteers may not earn any money, but the least these volunteers deserve from the stars who they help is a little respect.