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The ball boys and girls, in their own words – Part 2: Camille Daste

By Estelle Couderc   on   Wednesday 11 October 2017
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Year after year, hundreds of young people apply to become ball boys and girls at the French Open, putting themselves through an arduous selection process that involves some tough training and ball-throwing, agility and running tests. For those who make the grade, the French Open fortnight is a subtle blend of stress and passion, an amazing adventure in which they walk the very same clay as the game’s greatest players. For a fortunate few, the experience ends with them walking hand in hand with one of the finalists in front of a capacity 15,000 crowd at the Philippe-Chatrier, a moment of intimacy and the perfect end to magical tournament, every detail of which they will remember for many, many years to come. So here, in their own words and in a first instalment, come the ball boys and girls.

Camille Daste, walking out with Roger Federer at the 2011 final

“It was breathtaking”
“I was down to carry the trophy at the end of the final, for the award ceremony. Then, at the very last minute, my friend and I were told to go and see David Portier (the head of the ball boys and girls). He gave us the news. It was amazing. Roger was the man, as far as I was concerned. I really wanted to walk on with him, and it wasn’t even an issue really. They asked us to sort it out ourselves and the other ball girl said she wanted to go on with Rafael Nadal. I couldn’t believe my luck. I remember feeling pretty stressed because it was my first time walking on to the Chatrier. Being in the corridor waiting to go on was amazing in itself. Nelson Montfort (the French commentator) was there and there were all these preparations going on, all this excitement. Then the players arrived. They were really focused. And then we went out on court. It was breathtaking, magical. It dawned on me that I was on the Chatrier with Roger Federer. Everyone was applauding him and there I was, holding his hand.”

“I was just a little kid”
“It was just a moment really. It was over so fast, just a blur. My stomach was in knots when we went on. I was 13. I was just a little kid compared to him. He looked so big. We didn’t talk at all, but they’re so focused that you can’t really blame them for that. You absolutely don’t want to bother them either. I was so happy at being by his side. And I remember very clearly Roger smiling at me. He was really in the zone, but he looked really nice all the same.”

“There it was, my special moment: holding Federer’s hand.”
“It was an amazing moment. That was how it felt to walk on to that court. I was next to Federer and it was so bright I could hardly see. It was so exciting that I forgot all about being stressed. It was a truly wonderful moment. And then came this wall of noise, which was just amazing. It didn’t sink in straightaway, though. That came afterwards, when I met up with my family and my tennis coach. They were all so happy for me and it was only then that I understood that I’d done something pretty neat. It was all so intense at the time that I didn’t really take stock of it all. Then I remembered something that happened at the tournament. Some of my friends had been on the Lenglen. I was dying to do the same, and they said to me: ‘Don’t worry. You’ll have your special moment too.’ And there it was, my special moment: holding Federer’s hand.”

Ramasseur de balles
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