THE daughter of a Strabane man served up a helping hand to the biggest names in tennis recently as a ball girl at the Australian Open.
Helena Porter (14) was chosen from 3,000 young people to take part in the star studded event at Melbourne Park.
Helena is the daughter of Strabane man and former Barrack Street and St Colman’s pupil John Porter.
John grew up in Olympic Drive before moving to London and then emigrating to Australia in 1994.
With family still in Sion Mills, John keeps in close touch with his Tyrone connections.
Recently though his focus was on centre court at Melbourne Park where 14-year-old Helena was acting as ball girl to none other than Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Venus Williams and Angelique Kerber.
The Strathmore Secondary College student was chosen to take part through ‘Ballkids’, a programme that offers young people the opportunity to get involved in showcase tennis events across the world.
To be chosen, Helena had to go through three trials before a tough training session late in 2016.
Out of the 3,000 children who applied, only 380 made the cut.
Helena told the Strabane Chronicle it was an experience she will never forget.
“I landed a spot on centre court three times this year and managed to get the Women’s Doubles Final as well as both Men’s Semi-Finals,” said the teenager.
“The experience is like no other for any young tennis fan. Being so close to some of your favourite players and being able to learn so much for them is such a privilege.
“Knowing that I am a part of such a well known event and great tournament also makes me feel very professional. The tournament has also helped me and given me work experience and taught me to work together in groups as on court we work in teams of six – two nets and four bases.”
Following her centre court appearance, Helena is aiming to become Top Gun of 2018. The award is given out to the most outstanding boy and girl Ballkid of the Australian Open each year. The two lucky young people chosen are rewarded with a place in the Ballkid squad who police the hallowed turf of Roland Garros at the French Open in 2018.
Participants get to spend three weeks working at the tournament as well as sightseeing in Paris.
Reflecting on an exhausting two weeks at the Australian Open and looking forward to continuing her work with Ballkids, Helena added, “This has definitely topped the list as one of the best experiences of my life so far.”
Posted: 2:00 pm February 17, 2017