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February, 2024

Mastercard and Eleven launch Australia’s first wheelchair ballkid program

Mastercard, in partnership with creative agency Eleven, has launched Australia’s first wheelchair ballkid pilot program. The initiative, which debuted during the year’s first Grand Slam, aims to showcase the potential of wheelchair users to participate as ballkids in global tennis tournaments. The inaugural participant of the program was 11-year-old Sonny Rennison, a Junior Wheelchair Tennis Champion.

The technology developed by Mastercard and its partners to assist Sonny in collecting and storing the balls on court is cutting-edge. The learnings from the pilot will be made available to tournament organisers and tennis fans worldwide, with anyone owning a 3D printer able to produce the technology.

“From discovery calls where we understood what Sonny needed to help him collect and store balls, to sound boarding concepts with tennis players like Alicia Molik and Heath Davidson, we learned and evolved to create a concept that truly supports Sonny in the flow of the game,” said Brigham Glaser, Managing Director at Streaker.

According to Diana Sutterby, a professional ballkid assessor, “This pilot is an important reminder that people of all abilities can participate in tennis programs and there doesn’t need to be limitations on who can apply and participate.”

Heath Davidson, World No. 4 Wheelchair Tennis Player said, “Ballkids are a huge part of Grand Slams and tennis tournaments, however there are some kids who would love to be involved but don’t have the opportunity to take part. I’ve always wondered why kids in chairs can’t be ballkids, and this pilot demonstrated how feasible that could be. Hopefully this can be a starting point for those dreams to come true, demonstrating the potential future of tennis events.”

Sonny Rennison, the 11-year-old National High Performance Wheelchair Tennis Player based in Melbourne, who has been using a wheelchair since the age of four due to a rare genetic bone condition called Multiple Epiphyseal Dysplasia (MED), expressed his excitement about the opportunity. “I have never seen a wheelchair ballkid before, so I thought it would never happen which made me sad when I was younger. I am excited and thankful to have this opportunity and to hopefully encourage other kids in wheelchairs who might want to be ballkids but didn’t think they could, like me. I hope we can show them that nothing is impossible and to keep pursuing their dreams.”