With ball kids not allowed at the ongoing Strasbourg WTA, former World No 12 Paul-Henri Mathieu was seen carrying out the duties during the match between Anna Blinkova and Aryna Sabalenka.
The Frenchman, who had worked as a ball boy 30 years ago at the event, accepted the organisers’ invitation to work as a ball person at the Strasbourg WTA.
“It was a great way to pay tribute to the WTA on its 50th anniversary,” the 38-year-old Mathieu said during a media interaction.
“In addition, I had already picked up the balls in these same internationals. In 1989 and 1990, I was a collector in Hautepierre (the league center in Strasbourg). These are the kinds of events that make you want to go professional even more when you’re a kid.”
A member of the French team that made the Davis Cup finals in 2002, Mathieu retired from the sport in October, 2017. He won four ATP titles and climbed to a career-high of No 12 in the rankings in 2008.
Speaking of his experience as a ball person on Wednesday, Mathieu said, “It was tough today. I was doing the baseline with the sun in my eyes.”
In the match, Sabalenka fired 27 winners to beat Blinkova 1-6, 6-4, 6-2. She will face Katerina Siniakova in the quarterfinals.