us open, ball boy, jonathan perkins

Inside the Mind of a U.S. Open Ballperson

A 17-year veteran shares his most inspiring memories

I’ve been lucky enough to step on the court with tennis greats for the past 17 years. Being a U.S. Open ballperson is a seasonal side hustle that only a select few can boast. My good fortune is in part thanks to the fact that I was raised in Bayside, Queens, about 20 minutes from the USTA National Tennis Center where the U.S. Open is held—and where I’ve played tennis since I was eight years old.

For young local players, becoming a ballperson at the age of 14 is a rite of passage of sorts. Tryouts happen every year in June during which about 400 people take a shot at 80 opening positions. Once you get in, though, you’re generally in for life (or as long as you wish) so long as you keep doing a good job and showing that you want to be there.

Now, at 30 years old, I still feel a sense of pride putting on my uniform and seeing the U.S. Open patch on my sleeve. I not only represent the USTA but also my country as this is America's Grand Slam and people from all over the world come to watch the top athletes compete. When you can say that you pretty much have the best “seat” in the house, you get to experience things that no ticketholder can ever claim. It takes seven matches to win the U.S. Open so here are seven unforgettable introspects culled from the past 17 years.

Jonathan Perkins is a senior designer at Equinox in New York City.