Wimbledon’s army of ball boys and girls have a list of players’ tics and superstitions to check before they go on court, their trainer has revealed.
As well as being drilled with military precision, the team knows which players will only take balls from certain spots on court, or which want the same ball back after serving an ace.
Sarah Goldson, head of ball boys and girls at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, said: “Certain players only take balls from the right base two, for example – to be honest the kids pick that up very quickly themselves and they will pass that information on.
“They will check as they go out and they will know which players want certain things.”
Without naming names, she added: “Obviously some [players] will want a certain ball back, so you’ve got to be ready for that. So if they’ve served an ace quite often they’ll want that ball back.”
The team of 160 ball boys and girls begin their training in February and practice for two-and-a-half hours every week until the tournament.
But despite spending so much time together, they are not allowed to talk.
Ms Goldson said: “In the training programme there’s no conversation – they don’t speak to each other. It’s a discipline thing.
“During the training they sit on the side and watch if they are not on the court – it is all part of the discipline.
“Obviously during the championships when they are not on court and they’re in the complex, they’re having a great time playing table tennis, playing cards.
“For most of them, I think their lifelong friends will be the people they’re in the team with.”
There are also strict rules governing mobile phones – the youngsters can bring a device on site but are banned from using it in the grounds or posting on social media.
The movements of the ball boys and girls are choreographed down to the smallest detail, which among other things helps protect Wimbledon’s famous courts.
Ms Goldson said: “All the time we are just trying to minimise our impact on the grass in terms of the patterns we make when we go forward with a towel and things like that.
“We look at how they pivot – so they’re lifting their foot a little bit more so they’re not tearing the grass.
“We try and spend as little time as possible in the lines – you see when they come off court they’re coming round the edges.”