(Bart van den Berg, 22, Student Accounting, Auditing and Control)
“Give it up for… Bart van den Berg!!!, the announcement echoed through the huge stadium speaker. To great applause and cheers, I stepped onto the Centre Court in Ahoy. In 2008 I’d been here as a ball boy. Now, thanks to winning the Dutch club championship, I was about to partner Jesse Huta Galung and face Marcelo Melo (no. 1 in the world!) and Ivan Dodig (no. 7). Friends and family in the stands chanted my name. Goosebumps! We didn’t win the match – I hadn’t expected to – but we played well. At the end, Melo and Dodig told me they’d been surprised how well I’d played! Seriously, it was the best week of my life. A dream come true! I’m still enjoying the experience.
Without my parents, I’d never have made it this far. They are my biggest supporters, both financially and mentally. ‘As long as you really go for it, Bart, we’ll help you all the way,’ they said.
I first got to play tennis when I was 3. Obviously, this didn’t involve much more than running after the ball, but as I got older, I seemed to get better and better. But I never imagined that I’d continue to improve. To be honest, that’s why I chose to study at Erasmus University: you never know how a sports career will go, so it’s a good idea to have something behind you. But every year I got a bit better and… I’m still improving! It does mean making sacrifices, though. I can’t go out every weekend and sit drinking beer. But that’s ok!
Of course I’d always dreamed of standing on Centre Court, but I never thought it would happen. Thanks to winning the Supermatch, I suddenly got that chance. What did I get out of it, besides an amazing experience? Firstly, I’d say self-confidence and the realisation that the distance between me and the great players isn’t as big as I initially thought. Of course my opponents were stronger and technically better, but with a set of 5-7, we kept up with them pretty well. I now know what I have to do, what I specifically need to practise. And, not unimportantly, I now know that I can play well in front of a packed stadium.
My big hero is Roger Federer. A world player and also a very nice man. Sometimes you see tennis players – when they’ve had a bit of success – getting a bit too big for their boots. He’s not like that. As a ball boy, I once nearly knocked him over before an important match, but let’s forget that – haha. Do I dream of having a professional career? Well, I’d be lying if I said no. After finishing my master, I want to spend two years focusing full-time on my tennis and see what happens. I may be too late to reach the top, but who knows. Keep dreaming.”