On The Line with Roy Hobbs

Roy Hobbs
Roy HobbsST PHOTO: JONATHAN WONG

The Sunday Times speaks to the people who work away from centre court and behind the scenes to find out the quirky details of their jobs.

Today: Roy Hobbs, a 26-year-old hitting partner from Singapore.

Q How long have you been playing tennis?

A I'm the top Singaporean player and the WTA asked me if I would like to help do some hitting practice.

Q Who were you hitting with?

A I've hit with Garbine Muguruza and Angelique Kerber. Last year, I hit with Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova.

Q What attributes must a good hitting partner possess?

A You must be consistent, can't miss a lot of balls. Your job is to give the player rhythm. It's not good if you hit one high, then one low, and the player doesn't get into any rhythm or feel for the ball.

Q What time does your day start?

A Usually, I have two to four hitting sessions each day, depending on the requests from the players. They're about an hour each. The earliest I've done is 8.30am. Latest was 6pm.

Q Describe a typical session.

A We might start off with some laps and stretches. We hit some balls from the service line just to warm up and get a feel, then move back to the baseline and hit ground strokes for 15-20 minutes. Usually go forehand cross-court, backhand cross-court, volleys, smash and then serves. It's pretty standard with every player.

Q No. 1 rule for a hitting partner?

A Don't be late. They're on a schedule, playing a match. They don't want to be thinking about other stuff while they're preparing for a match, so make sure you're on time and ready to play when they are.

Q What do you guys talk about besides tennis?

A I've been lucky with players so far.They're all really nice and we chat about all sorts of things. We share stories about travelling and playing tennis.

Q Any interesting routines from the players?

A If they're winning, they like to stick with the same hitting partner. They don't want to change their routines.

Q How good are these women?

A They're really, really consistent. They don't miss, even in practice. Their footwork is really good, they're always moving, always intense. To hit the ball as hard as they do, you have to be in the right position.

Q Were you nervous when you started out?

A Yeah, of course, especially last year. It was my first time being a hitting partner and I didn't want to make a lot of mistakes. I just got back from injury and hadn't touched a racket for three weeks and was a bit rusty, and took me about 20 minutes to settle down.

Q How does being a hitting partner help your own game?

A The coaches sometimes give you a tip. They're coaching some of the best players in the world so you would listen to anything they tell you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 01, 2015, with the headline 'On The Line with Roy Hobbs'. Print Edition | Subscribe