No matter how famous a tennis player may be, they were probably once a ballboy or ballgirl. It's an honor for tennis lovers to be a ballgirl. For Liu Ying it is an honor too. But it brings her a degree of awkwardness because she is no kid at all. This year she will be 26 years old.
"Of course there are people who don't understand me. But this is already my third year here. I just want to follow my own heart. I don't care what they say."
This year, at the Shanghai ATP masters, there are altogether 71 ballboys and ballgirls. Liu Ying is the oldest. In regards to why she wanted to be ballgirl, she explained that it was actually not her idea originally.
"I love tennis. But because of my eyesight problems I can't be a judge. But they say I can be a ballgirl. So here I am."
Liu Ying says she loves being a ballgirl because she enjoys the game most on the court.
"Watching tennis games at home and on the court are so different. I am so happy that I can watch them play and at the same time serve them."
Watching and being the cloest one to players on court is definitely exciting. But not everyone can be a good ballgirl. Liu said that one must know how to play tennis or at least be a tennis lover.
Liu Ying herself is a tennis coach in Shanghai. After learning tennis in northern China, she found a job in a sports recreation center in down town Shanghai. Now her job is to teach tennis. But her love of tennis, and especially her love of certain tennis players made her keep coming back to serve during the Masters.
"My favorite star is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. I like his style. He is passionate when playing. I believe he will achieve a great deal more."
Liu Ying cherishes the moments while she is serving.
"I remember once it was quite funny when I was delivering the towel. I didn't know if he wanted the towel or not. I hesitated. At the same time he was hesitant too. So you can imagine how funny it was that the two were there leaning forward and backward for several times without knowing what to do at all."
Being a ballgirl is exciting but at the same time tiring. Sometimes one has to serve four matches in just one day. Despite the hard work, Liu Ying and the younger ballboys and ballgirls are quite happy.
"They are all very happy, because they can get the signatures of their favorite stars. We all volunteered to do this job of course, feeling quite happy."
For Liu Ying, this is the third year she has served the masters. When talking about the event, she says it is getting better, and the ballboys and girls are serving better in particular.
"There have been some changes. The ballboys and girls are mostly very young, and every year we have new ones. But some older and more experienced ones have stayed and have become organizers. So in general their expertise is increasing."
Liu Ying says she is totally fine with being the oldest among the ballboys and ballgirls, and she will keep coming back if she can.
"I think I will continue to do it until I get married. I cannot do it then because I will have to take care of my children after I get married."
Starting from the Shanghai Henikken Open in 1998, the Shanghai ATP Masters has brought opportunities for many tennis lovers like Liu Ying to get closer to the game, and to meet the players they like. More importantly, it is cultivating a tennis environment in the city that is encouraging more people to join the game.
"Now more people are coming to our sports center to learn and play tennis. The tennis environment is getting better here in Shanghai."
For CRI, this is Yunfeng in Shanghai.