Florida man is first to snare ball under new policy
Posted: Tuesday August 30, 2005 12:11PM; Updated: Tuesday August 30, 2005 1:56PM
The first souvenir ball hit into the stands at this year's U.S. Open was off the racket of Serena Williams on Monday afternoon.
Nick Laham/Getty Images
By Richard Deitsch, SI.com
In an effort to emulate baseball's foul-ball rule, one of the most egalitarian concepts in all of sport, the USTA adopted a new policy this year to allow fans to keep any wayward tennis balls hit into stands of Arthur Ashe Stadium.
So which fan was the first to get a souvenir Wilson? Bill Riddell of Amelia Island, Fla. Sitting in seats so close to the court they could make out the shoelaces on the Nikes worn by Serena Williams, Riddell, a 53-year-old medical manufacturing rep for Healthlink Inc., grabbed the first Wilson 1 at 11:51 a.m. on Monday.
The ball trickled into Riddell's first-row seat with Williams up 3-0 in the second set of her first-round win over Yung-Jan Chan of Taiwan. Riddell and his wife, Gail, were first-time visitors to the Open as part of their 35th anniversary celebration.
"What did I think? I thought it was cool," Bill told SI.com.
Unlike the record-setting home run balls of Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds, the Riddells said their ball would not be for sale.
"We're keeping it for safekeeping," said Gail, who kept the ball in a flower-patterned handbag.
The Riddells had hoped to get Williams to autograph the ball, which had three scratch marks from her racquet, but were unsuccessful. They said they would try again at the Bausch & Lomb Championships in Amelia Island next April. Until then, the ball will remain safely guarded at the Riddells home.
"We have four grandsons," said Bill. "I think we have a neat story to tell them."