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March 26, 2016 12:29 AM

Toby Smith talks with Brandon Briganti about being a ballboy at Indian Wells

BallboyBrandon Briganti is an eighth grader at Albuquerque’s Desert Ridge Middle School.  At 14, he is a standout junior player – He is ranked in the 14-and-unders in the USTA Southwest.  He played Junior Team Tennis and played in the nationals in South Carolina.  He’s been part of Desert Ridge’s championship middle school team for three years. In March, he served as a ballboy for more than a week at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, considered by some tennis followers to be a fifth major tournament.  

How did you get started in ballboying?

I did it for four years at the Coleman Vision Tennis Championships, at Tanoan.  

How did you like that?

It was fun to be on the court and see how hard women hit the ball.

Who were some of those hard hitters at the Coleman that you remember?

Maria Sanchez, Irina Falconi, Lauren Davis, Melanie Oudin.

It’s a big leap from the Coleman, a $75,000 women’s tournament, to Indian Wells, which is a $10 million event in which men and women compete. How did that happen?

Last fall, Julanie Lee, who is in charge of the ballkids at the Coleman was asked by Indian Wells to forward names of people who might be interested in trying. My mom received an email about inviting me to take a test.   

What did you have to do first?

I received a review booklet online and then took an online test.  I had to score 90 percent or above to advance. I also had to write an essay, one paragraph.  I wrote that I had started playing tennis at 7 or 8 and thought it would be fun to watch all the professionals.  

Was that hard?

I thought I had a chance.

And it turns out you did.  What happened then?

I was invited to a training camp on January 2, of this year.  That was a Saturday.  My mom drove me and my sister Courtney, who is 23, out to California. We left on Friday.  It was eleven and a half hours each way.  

Was the tryout hard?

It was long.  8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  

What actually took place?  

There were six kids on the courts at once.  Two coordinators would play singles.  And there were substitutes for the coordinators. Five groups of kids, with 10 kids in a group. It was essentially a six-hour match.  It wasn’t like a real match.  The coordinators would purposely miss shots here and there.

How did you do?

I pretty much knew everything to do from working at the Coleman.  I got “excellents” on all my grades.  

How did find out if you had passed?

You were called out to have your photo taken. You kind of figured out if you didn’t get your photo taken didn’t make it.  

So your photo would be used as your credential through the tournament?


What then?  

We drove back to California on March 7.  

Were you paid?

[Laughs.] No. I got $16 in food money each day.  But that ran out usually after one meal.  Everything was pretty expensive. A hamburger was ten dollars.

What was the first match you were a ballboy?

Coco Vanderweghe and Bethanie Mattek-Sands were playing doubles.  I kind of remembered them from the Coleman.  

Did you see any players get angry?  

I saw two women smash their rackets.  Eugenie Bouchard and Gambine Murgurza.

stosurWho was the nicest player you saw?  

Samantha Stoser, She said please and thank-you whenever she asked for a towel.  Some of the ballkids didn’t get towels fast enough and got yelled at by players.

Was the work hard?

We worked a day shift from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Or a night shift, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.  In the seven days there, I worked five day shifts and two night shifts.  Some of those days were really hot.

Did you stay for the finals?

No, I finished on March 14 and we drove home on March 15. I slept a lot of the time on the way back.  I missed a week and two days of school. I did some makeup work while there.  On the drive home I wrote an essay on The Book Thief, a novel by Markus Zusak. Language arts is my favorite subject in school.

SockDid kids at school ask you about the tournament?

Not that many kids at school like tennis.  [Laughs.] Some of my friends saw me on TV during Jack Sock’s match.

What about souvenirs?  Did you get any?

I received a bright orange shirt, blue shorts, light blue cap and white Fila tennis shoes. That was my outfit there. I got one of those yellow tennis balls, not the really big ones, but smaller, and had it signed by Nadal, Murray, Bouchard, Sock, Jankovic.

Can you read their scribbling?

I printed their names next to the signatures.

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