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Ballperson soaks up time working at U.S. Open

Kavita Jagnarine from Ozone Park knows exactly where she will be on Sept. 9, and it’s not at the Technical Career Institute in Manhattan where she is a junior technician.

“I’m staying home,” the 21-year-old said. “I’m going to spend a little time with my family.”

It’s a safe bet Sept. 9, will be the first time anyone in the Jagnarine household will see the John Adams graduate in about two weeks, as it marks the end of her sixth year as a U.S. Open ballperson.

Jagnarine has become one of the top ballpersons around. She worked the last two women’s finals at Arthur Ashe Stadium, including last year’s first-ever Prime Time All-Williams final, and she hopes to make it three in a row this year.

“When I tried out six years ago, my goal was to one day work the last day of women’s matches,” Jagnarine said. “It’s what I always wanted.”

Jagnarine played softball and volleyball at John Adams and played some outside tennis, even flirting with a possible Open wild card bid in doubles when she was 17 before tearing a ligament in her shoulder.

With her dream of playing at the U.S. Open behind her, she decided to try out as an Open ballperson because she was a big fan of Martina Hingis.

“I loved Hingis and I wanted to do her matches,” said the recent graduate of Polytechnic University. “The first time I got to do her match, the vibe and the energy was amazing. I just loved her.”

In addition to working a Hingis match and back-to-back women’s finals, Jagnarine had the pleasure of working an Andre Agassi match three years ago, which was cause for some anxiety.

“He’s very particular; if you’re working the net, you have to return to the net,” she said. “I was so nervous. That was when he was dating Brooke Shields and I couldn’t believe she was sitting right there. I happened to trip a little, but no one noticed. Well, the ball kids did.”

To be a successful ballperson, Jagnarine said, you need to love the sport and love your job, which is especially true considering the long hours and low pay (Ballpersons’ salary was raised this year to $7.75 an hour, up from $5.15 an hour when Jagnarine started).

“You have to love what you’re doing,” said Jagnarine, who arrived at the National Tennis Center at 10 a.m. Monday and predicted she was likely going to work until around 11 p.m. “When the Open is here, you have to dedicate your time. There is no days off, there is no vacation.”

According to Neyla Rodriguez, an assistant supervisor of the ballpersons, those are qualities Jagnarine always has possessed.

“She’s always been very energetic. From Day One she’s been a giggly, bubbly teenager,” the Elmhurst resident said. “Despite her giggliness, she’s always shown she takes her job seriously, which is why we assign her big matches. And if they’re not available, she is humble enough to go to a juniors or seniors match with no problem.”

Come Sept. 9, Jagnarine trades in her short red skirt and her short-lived celebrity and returns to the real world of the Technical Career Institute. That is, until next August when she’s back in the limelight.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

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