Archived Story

Among the pros

Published 11:02am Tuesday, April 8, 2014


Washington’s Wilkins volunteers at 2014 Family Circle Cup

Washington’s standout tennis player Connor Wilkins capitalized on an opportunity of a lifetime last week when he volunteered as a ball boy for the 2014 Family Circle Cup, a professional tournament on the Women’s Tennis Association Tour.

After volunteering in last year’s tournament as a rookie ball boy, he headed back to Charleston on Monday, March 31, but this time as a seasoned veteran, boasting the rank of All-Star.

“He was nervous the first year – you could just tell – but this year he looked a lot more professional on the court,” said Lisa Wilkins, Connor’s mother. “It was cool watching that transformation.”

Throughout the tournament, Connor was assigned the baseline, one of the more demanding ball boy positions. The Washington junior found himself responsible for circulating the tennis balls to the athletes before they served, providing them with a towel when requested and holding the umbrella over the pros between sets.

“To start out with, it’s overwhelming, but once you get into the flow of it, it’s kind of just smooth sailing,” Connor said. “Once you get into the groove, it’s actually kind of easy.”

Connor spent Monday and Tuesday, the first two rounds of the tournament, finding his rhythm and being a ball boy for some of the more unknown WTP players. However, there was one instance where Connor crossed paths with one of the greats.

“Venus Williams was actually playing. She was playing a lower-ranked player, but it’s still Venus Williams,” Connor said. “If you’re on ball crew before each match, you need to line up against the wall so the players have their space. I was the last one in the line, and Venus was walking out, and just on a fluke thing, I stuck my hand out and said, “Great match Venus.” Boom. A high five.”

A couple days later, Williams lost a close match, 7-6 (6), 2-6, 6-4, to Eugenie Bouchard, a 20-year-old Canadian currently ranked No. 19 in the world.

“We just kept thinking, this is awesome he gets this opportunity,” said Lisa Wilkins. “There were so many different people from so many different countries. Sitting in that stadium, it’s just so large and just so massive, and they’re just so many people sitting in there at the end of the tournament, it’s just really quite amazing.”

Being an All-Star selection, Connor was chosen to ball boy a semi-final singles game and a semi-final doubles game on Saturday.

Outside of volunteering on the court, Connor is also the most accomplished Pam Pack player on head coach Miranda Whitley’s varsity squad, holding a perfect 16-0 match record without dropping a single set.

“Watching the players, at any level of tennis, can help improve your game,” Connor said. “Even though I had to stay informed about where the balls are going and who to give the balls to, you’re still able to learn a lot from how they hit the ball, where they hit the ball and how they move on the court. I can take that to heart because I can improve my game by watching them.”

After an extended break, Connor and the Pam Pack are set to rematch Class 4-A opponent J.H. Rose on Monday beginning at 4 p.m. Connor missed the last match against the Rampants due to exhaustion from the Family Circle Cup, but will look for a statement win against J.H. Rose’s top hitters.

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