Australian Open 2008 finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was a hit with the Australian Open Ballkids, who gathered at the new National Tennis Centre (NTC) for their annual group photo on Tuesday.
Tsonga joined Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley at the NTC, who welcomed the 380-strong squad ahead of the year’s first Grand Slam event and introduced them as the “best in the world”.
They were then given their shot to prove why, with the squad put through its paces to demonstrate for Tsonga finely-honed skills including ball rolling and various stances to communicate with players on court.
Tsonga, who joined in the drills with remarkable polish, also seemed to approve of the Ballkids’ rendition of his trademark victory dance, which they ended the demonstration with.
The squad then enthusiastically swamped the world No.8 for a group photo before a large gathering of media and photographers.
The NTC provided a stunning backdrop for the shoot, a light-filled, state-of-the-art indoor training and recovery centre that anchors the Eastern Plaza redevelopment, a precinct forming the newest addition to Melbourne Park and which will be operational for Australian Open 2013.
The Australian Open Ballkids squad includes 20 ballkids from Korea, six from China and 23 from interstate.
They have come through a rigorous selection process which began back in early 2012, with well over 1,000 applicants whittled down through a multi-stage trial process to the squad of 380 that will work at the 2013 tournament.
Tsonga’s Australian Open preparation has so far seen him contest the Hyundai Hopman Cup in Perth, at which he won all three of his singles matches.
He withdrew from the Apia International Sydney after sustaining a groin injury in Perth, which he expects will be healed in time for his seventh campaign at Melbourne Park.