There are 230 ball collectors this year. Coming from all over France, they experience an edition of the Grand Slam necessarily special because of the coronavirus epidemic.
This Wednesday, September 30 is the fourth day of the Roland-Garros 2020 tournament. The restrictions linked to Covid-19 do not only concern the players and the public: there are also new constraints for those around the court, the judges line and small ball collectors. These adolescents, coming from all over France, are 230 this year and are experiencing a historic edition.
They are not allowed to remove their masks on clay. And yet they run and sweat too. The bullet collectors did not imagine their mission would be so delicate. But Mattis, 13, from Dijon, has already taken the plunge: “There is frost all over the place. And then, as soon as there are new balls, we have to wash our hands. We no longer do hand in hand, we put the balls on the ground and the other comes look for them. We can’t help it anyway. “
The ball collectors have therefore adapted to these new restrictions with a little regret all the same. “Before, we could have a little contact with the player and not anymore, explains Maëlle, 14 years old. For example, if they ask us for a bottle of water, we are not allowed. They are the ones who have to move. The same goes for the towel, they’re the ones who take care of it. We are not allowed to touch her. “
Collectors who are also tested. They were screened twice last week, and will be screened again later this week. So in order not to leave the adventure too soon, Maëlle takes all precautions: “Before I left, I didn’t kiss anyone anymore. And in the evening, since I take public transport, it’s complicated because sometimes there are a lot of people. I try not to touch everything too much and sanitize my hands well. “
Because to participate in the tournament, Maëlle had to negotiate. As much as his principal agreed to a few missed days at the end of the year of 4th, as soon as the start of 3rd is something else. “He told me that I had to take the courses and that since I had the certificate, it was still a bit risky”, says Maëlle.
My parents were also a little worried about the patent. But, they told me it was a great experience and that I was lucky.
Maëlle therefore takes advantage of game interruptions due to the rain to do her homework. Moreover, the collectors unlike the players did not adopt a fall outfit. “We provided them with a poncho anyway to come in the morning in case of rain, but they will not wear it on the court, it is really for off the field., explains Arhur Bongrand, the head of the ball collectors. But it’s the same outfit, so they’re probably going to use the jacket a bit more than the T-shirt. Afterwards, when they are in action on the court, they quickly get hot. “
Among the 230 ball collectors this year, there are about a quarter of girls, the same proportion as among the licensees.