Paul-Henri Mathieu has been retired for years but the former ATP pro was back on court this week at Strasbourg—as a ballboy.
The Frenchman, who got as high as No. 12 in the rankings and retired in 2017, is from the region and was invited to participate by tournament organizers. Mathieu agreed, saying it was a good way to pay tribute to the WTA Tour on its anniversary and he had been a ballboy at a previous edition of the tournament in 1989 and 1990.
"These types of events make you want to become professional even more when you're young," he said, speaking to L'Alsace.
It's a little tougher these days, though. "It was hard today, I was doing the baseline with the sun in my eyes," he said.
Surprise de taille aux #IS20 : Paul-Henry Mathieu devient ramasseur de balles durant 1 rotation lors de ce match où vont s’affronter #AnnaBlinkova et @SabalenkaA ???????? CC @WTA pic.twitter.com/GQkMYITk9Z— WTA Strasbourg (@WTA_Strasbourg) September 23, 2020
The amount of children working has been reduced at the event, which was pushed back to September due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mathieu was warmly applauded by the crowd, said the newspaper, and got permission from the players, Aryna Sabalenka and Anna Blinkova. But he didn't have to be concerned about their reaction.
"But good, I found they didn't know... who I was," he said, jokingly.