Ball boys and girls have been around for generations, working quick on their feet to return tennis balls to tournament players – but they could now be replaced by so-called ‘ball dogs’.
The Champions Tennis tournament, which is now in its 22nd year, made history in the UK this week by using ‘ball dogs’ to help out on the court.
This is the first tennis tournament in British history to use ball dogs.
Tennis legends such as John McEnroe and Tim Henman were assisted by their four-legged friends in the event, which started yesterday (6 Dec) and will run until Sunday.
The clever canines helped out at the Champions Tennis event last night in the Royal Albert Hall in London, acting as the ball boys and girls.
A range of dogs, including a lively black Labrador, darted across the court to retrieve the balls.
Iranian former pro Mansour Bahrami, 62, also decided to join in the fun, taking on the job himself as he knelt to pick up a ball with his mouth.
Specially trained canines
The Canine Partners charity teamed up with organisers to bring in the specially trained, four-legged volunteers, in partnership with Skinner’s dog food.
Nicola Martin, from the charity, said, “We are delighted to be given the opportunity to get involved with Champions Tennis this year.
“Retrieving dropped items is just one of the hundreds of amazing things our dogs can do for people with disabilities.
“Our specially trained dogs bring greater independence and quality of life to their partners, offering security, companionship and practical help with everyday household tasks.
“They can even load and unload the washing machine and fetch help in an emergency.
“Not only will our involvement in this event be great fun for the audience, our handlers and the dogs too, but it will be great to showcase our charity and what our dogs do for disabled people in the UK.”