Day in the Life: Ball Kids

How the famous ramasseurs of Roland-Garros are well drilled for action.

Ball kid roland garros 2019©Julien Crosnier / FFT
 - Sarah Edworthy

Forget Monfils or Halep, Nishikori or Federer, let’s give a shout-out to the speediest athletes on the courts of Roland-Garros: the ball kids or les ramasseurs.

Darting across the court, sprinting along the net to retrieve loose balls, rolling them to the baseline for distribution to the serving player, dashing out after every point with a towel (or two, depending on player quirks, of which there are many): the ball kids are the extraordinarily intuitive agents of order, efficiency and military precision on court.

Selection is a tough process, and to earn a place at a Grand Slam is a dream scenario.

That pride is particularly evident in two members of the 260-strong ball-kids cohort. Blake Drury and Sarah Lemmon-Warde from Australia, both 15, were the top-performing ball kids at the Australian Open in January.

The prize for claiming the top spots in Melbourne (Blake for his speed, Sarah for her consistency)? To come to Paris as part of a reciprocal arrangement between the FFT and Tennis Australia and work on the famous terre battue of Paris. Their chaperone Patrick Boyle invited to follow a typical day in the kids in the terracotta and navy uniforms.

Routine of les ramasseurs

7am – Wake up, shower and dress in kit.

7.30am – Meet for breakfast of cornflakes, croissants and juice. Pack bag ready to go. Bus leaves for the stadium at 8.30am.

9am – Arrival at Roland-Garros and rush towards the Ball Kids HQ under Court No.7 for the highlight of the day: checking the notice board to see which court they have been allocated.

On Saturday Blake was on Court No.6; Sarah on “Suzie” as the French ball kids affectionately refer to Court Suzanne-Lenglen. Chat with other kids mostly about what court they’re all on. Play Whizz Ball in the recreation zone, a room equipped with wifi, bean bags, Playstation, video games and table football.

9.30am – The morning briefing: a reminder of protocol on court (don’t laugh); be sun smart (drink plenty of water, reapply sun screen).

On-song performers

Then, the celebrated stampede: all 260 ramasseurs move en masse to the end of the Grande Allée Marcel-Bernard, line up, and then jog from Court Philippe-Chatrier to Court Suzanne-Lenglen singing Le réveil du stade. Roughly translated, this rousing ball kid anthem begins We are the ball kids / Of Roland-Garros / We are going to pick up ball / All day long and continues with several verses punctuated by the refrain, Ouh ah Géant, Ouh ah Roland, Ouh ah Ballos, Ouh ah Garros * [See end of piece for full lyrics] 

Ball kid©Julien Crosnier / FFT

Blake and Sarah go to their assigned court and warm up for 20 minutes with their court team (three groups of six, who rotate every 40 minutes, giving the resting members time to eat and cool down).

They are well drilled in the importance of stretching out calves, quads, hamstrings, adductors and hip flexors. Before the players arrive on court, the squad have a brief preparatory talk with their evaluator with tips pertinent to the players scheduled on court.

Working for players who have quirky rituals about how they are presented with balls and towels might sound stressful.

“Not at all,” Blake and Sarah say in unison, who relish the concentration and the privilege in being on court. As Blake says, “No one is there to watch the ball kids except our evaluators. If we’re doing our job well, we’re invisible.”

Smooth operators

They have both experienced cameo moments in the limelight, prompting the crowd to burst into applause.

“I took a decent catch when Federer flicked the ball to the net,” recalls Blake, while Dominic Thiem posted an image of Sarah at work on his court at Brisbane on his social media.

During their stints on court each day, every individual ramasseur is evaluated from 0-10 on their performance in five categories. The top-ranked will earn the right to work the show courts for the finals.

9pm – The bus leaves Roland-Garros.

9.30pm – Arrive back at the hotel. Collect laundered kits and prepared for the following day. In bed by 10.30pm.

Ball kid Roland Garros 2019©Julien Crosnier / FFT

Full lyrics of Roland-Garros’ unique ball kid anthem

On est les ballos (x2) We are the ball kids

De Roland-Garros  (x2) of Roland-Garros

On va ramasser (x2) We are going to pick up ball

Toute la journée (x2) all day long


Ouh ah Géant, Ouh ah Roland, Ouh ah Ballos, Ouh ah Garros

Ooh ah giant, ooh ah Roland, ooh ah ball kids, ooh ah Garros

De Roger à Rafa (x2) From Roger to Rafa

On sera toujours là (x2) We will always be there

De Djoko à Caro (x2) From Djoko to Caro

Nous on s’en souviendra (x2) We will remember

ball kid©Julien Crosnier / FFT


On est les meilleurs (x2) We are the best

Les derniers ramasseurs (x2)  the ball kids

Jusqu’à la finale (x2) who stay until the final

On ramasse toutes les balles (x2) We pick up all the balls


15 jours à vous server (x2) Fifteen days of servicing you

Des tonnes de souvenirs (x2) with tons of memories

Du seize au Chatrier (x2) From Court No.16 to Chatrier

Nous, on va s’éclater (x2) we will have a lot of fun