Inside Montreal, journalist Louis-Philippe Messier travels mostly on the run, his office in his backpack, on the lookout for fascinating subjects and people. He speaks to everyone and is interested in all walks of life in this urban chronicle.
The tennis-loving public cherishes the players, and some more than others, but the real darlings of the crowd are always those teenagers who scramble to pick up the balls as discreetly as possible in the sometimes intolerable heat. /strong>
Young ball hunters work hard and volunteer, but they get “paid” for their trouble with a significant advantage: proximity to the action.
” The best place to watch a tennis match is directly on the court with the players to whom we give the ball! “, exclaims Nicolas Beaudet, who recruits, trains and supervises the 96 ” ;hunters» whose work is almost a sport in itself.
The head of ball chasers, Nicolas Beaudet, explains to me the technique for picking up balls at the net.
When the teams of six ball hunters arrive on the field – two by two in the back lines and two at the net – the 10,000 spectators in the stadium applaud them! Same thing when a team relays another.
“It's part of the show!,” says Mr. Beaudet, who sounds like Obi-Wan Kenobi to me, when he talks to me and shows me bullet-hunting techniques. At only 40 years old, he is already in his 25th tournament.
He indeed started as a ball hunter at the age of 15 in 1997, when the event wore again the name of the Du Maurier brand of cigarettes.
His job as a high school physical education teacher (and the two months of vacation that comes with it) facilitates his dedication as a volunteer every summer.
< p>From 100 to 150 young candidates – with around a third of them being girls – knock on his door every year around March. About 30 or 40 will be selected.
“To be a good ball-hunter, you have to understand the game well, although it's not essential to play it yourself”, m he explains.
Those who want to return in the following years are immediately accepted.
“Only experience can make a hunter really efficient and comfortable in his job, and we use our veterans of 17 or 18 ; years for the big games. »
The hunters are dressed from head to toe in the colors of the tournament and fed.
« agility and endurance that we are looking for because it is a very demanding job.
In addition to the physical prowess required, other considerations complicate the lives of young people in the field.
No question of hiding the name of a sponsor when the camera is filming.
No question of blocking the view of the photographers either.
Speaking is forbidden: we communicate by the look and by discreet gestures.
« A good ball hunter knows how to to make invisible and to be forgotten. »
As a radar detection system replaced the seven linesmen, it took a lot of people off the field, and the « padawans » of M. Beaudet have valuable additional space.
“On hot days, in the strong sun on the pitch without shade, the temperature exceeds 40 degrees, and that requires that our hunters drink a lot of water,” he says.
When the weather is predicted to be very hot, spare a thought for these stoic and self-effacing young people. They are not for nothing the darlings of the crowd. These applause, they fully deserve it!