Ball-boy with grandchilden swaps peace for piece of the action at 64

When Stan Bretner sold his computer software development company and moved with his wife from Washington DC to the warmth of Florida, a peaceful retirement beckoned.

He became a tennis nut, playing for three hours every day, but after a career travelling the world on business he soon decided he wanted more. He wanted to see the big names of tennis close up and to work alongside them, so he applied to be a ball-boy here at the Nasdaq-100 Open. He was accepted, took part in all the training programmes and worked at last year's tournament, including the women's final.

Bretner's wife and two children thought he would then settle back into retirement, but at 64 years old he is now a regular figure on the circuit and is back working here for the second year in succession, having also been a ball-boy at Amelia Island, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles and Indian Wells. He pays his own way and loves every moment of it.

"My grandchildren think I'm crazy, but they love to see me on television," he said. "They think it's the coolest thing in the world.

"The other ball kids weren't quite sure about me at first. Some of them thought I was a spy or something. Then they saw me doing everything they did and quickly accepted me."

The players are often similarly surprised. "Sometimes you can see they're thinking: 'He looks like my grandfather.' Guillermo Coria virtually adopted me. He kept telling all the other ball kids to give the balls to me. And towards the end of a match at Amelia Island Venus Williams sent a message asking me to hang around because she wanted to have her picture taken with me. Nearly all the players are very polite, despite the pressure they're under, though very few actually thank you when you give them the balls. Tim Henman's an exception, though. He's a real gentleman.

"The most important thing is to be prepared for the individual needs of each player. Some want to be given the balls quickly, others more slowly. Maria Sharapova only takes the balls from the ball person in the deuce court.

"Rafael Nadal always has to have two drinks bottles in exactly the same spot. Andre Agassi has to have a towel at each end of the court and he has to be able to see them. He gets upset if they're hidden away."

Bretner was turned down by the US Open but will try again this year. He is hoping to work at the Australian Open and has also written to Wimbledon and the French Open. "I've suggested that Wimbledon might like to use a senior visiting guest ball-boy," he said. "If I could get to the Grand Slam tournaments I would die a happy man."

Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect