Ser­vice with a smile

An army works over­time so the game’s stars can go toe to toe

Life & Style Weekend - - TRAVEL - TRAVEL with Robyn Court­ney

SPEC­TA­TORS of sport­ing events such as the Bris­bane In­ter­na­tional ten­nis tour­na­ment, whether it be live or on tele­vi­sion cov­er­age, see the high­lights of the play­ers hit­ting it out on court.

How­ever, it’s not of­ten that we are given an in­sight in to what hap­pens be­hind the scenes. Have you ever thought about all the plan­ning, prepa­ra­tion and or­gan­i­sa­tion that hap­pens be­fore the play­ers can even take to the court? Con­sider all the things that have to be done in or­der for the play­ers to have the best ex­pe­ri­ence pos­si­ble.

The op­por­tu­nity to walk through the un­der­belly of the Queens­land Ten­nis Cen­tre gave me a glimpse of what is in­volved in host­ing an event such as this. It’s ap­par­ent how hard Bris­bane In­ter­na­tional 2017 singles cham­pi­ons Grigor Dim­itrov and Karolina Pliskova have to train to be­come the vic­tors of a world-class com­pe­ti­tion like the BI. This year’s tour­na­ment boasted five of the world’s top 10 women and five of the top 10 men, pro­vid­ing fans with top-qual­ity ten­nis.

Sit­ting court­side gives the spec­ta­tor a sense of be­ing a part of the action but this is the end re­sult. What we see is the fi­nal prod­uct of the play­ers’ hard work, along with that of their coaches and sup­port crews.

It’s the lit­tle things, how­ever, that hap­pen off court in the lead-up and through­out the event which ac­tu­ally al­low these ath­letes the op­por­tu­nity to per­form.

Walk­ing from the locker room to the Queens­land Ten­nis Cen­tre’s Pat Rafter Arena, play­ers stride down a cor­ri­dor lined with large pho­tos of past cham­pi­ons, giv­ing a sense of what can be ac­com­plished.

The route takes you past rooms where tech­ni­cal crews are busy ensuring ev­ery­thing runs smoothly, such as in the Hawke-Eye room. It’s here that staff help de­liver the so­phis­ti­cated ball track­ing tech­nol­ogy to iden­tify whether a ball was in or out, en­hanc­ing the game for play­ers and fans.

For elite ath­letes fit­ness and diet are para­mount – it can mean the dif­fer­ence be­tween win­ning and los­ing. There­fore or­gan­is­ers must en­sure the play­ers’ needs are catered for.

A fully equipped gym­na­sium is set up for pre and post-match warm up and warm down and a restau­rant is cre­ated to pro­vide food that meets each in­di­vid­ual’s di­etary re­quire­ments.

Then there’s a ten­nis player’s most im­por­tant piece of equip­ment – their rac­quets. From time to time they need a re-string so this is also ac­com­mo­dated for.

The re-stringers are kept busy dur­ing the week mak­ing sure the on-court weapons are cor­rectly strung.

Speak­ing of on-court, there’s the of­fi­cials and ball kids who keep the games tick­ing along.

When pro­fes­sional ten­nis play­ers step out on court they have a num­ber of of­fi­cials de­ter­min­ing ev­ery de­ci­sion that needs to be made. Line and chair um­pires are es­sen­tial and the lo­gis­tics of mak­ing sure each court is cov­ered is an­other huge job on the list. And we can’t ex­pect a pro­fes­sional ten­nis player to have to col­lect the ten­nis balls them­selves in or­der to be able to start a point so there’s all the ball kids to train and or­gan­ise. Then there’s the tow­els used by play­ers and bot­tles of wa­ter pro­vided on court. Ever won­dered how they mag­i­cally ap­pear? An army of vol­un­teers work at these events to make sure ev­ery­thing runs smoothly. There’s the car driv­ers who take play­ers and their en­tourage to and from their ac­com­mo­da­tion and the ten­nis cen­tre, court ser­vices who man­age on-court needs of play­ers, and pa­tron ser­vices who take care of the fans.

All this is what tour­na­ment direc­tor Ge­off Quin­lan sug­gests makes the Bris­bane In­ter­na­tional so at­trac­tive to play­ers.

“It’s not dif­fi­cult to get a positive re­sponse from play­ers about com­ing to Bris­bane as the tour­na­ment has a good rep­u­ta­tion. The ameni­ties make them feel com­fort­able and well looked af­ter,” he said. “We do ev­ery­thing we pos­si­bly can and go above and be­yond to ser­vice the top class field that comes to play.”

The re­al­i­sa­tion is that the Bris­bane In­ter­na­tional has once again been a huge suc­cess and this is down to all that hap­pens be­hind the scenes.

The writer was a guest of Ten­nis Queens­land and the Mantra group.

PHOTO: TEN­NIS PHOTO NET­WORK

The tech­ni­cal as­pects of the game are well looked af­ter by staff in the Hawke-Eye room.

PHO­TOS: TEN­NIS PHOTO NET­WORK

Work­ing on a re-string to en­sure play­ers are ready to play and, top, Ash­leigh Barty walks along the cor­ri­dor where past BI cham­pi­ons are on dis­play.

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