A record number of ball kids won’t have to handle player towels during next month’s Australian Open.

The first Grand Slam of 2021 is due to begin on February 8th – with the eyes of the tennis world turned to Melbourne.

The build-up to the tournament has been dominated by concerns over player welfare and the potential spread of COVID-19 into the Australian community.

And the global health pandemic will have implications on the ball boys and girls tasked with keeping the on-court action moving.

Most DISAPPOINTING Premier League Player Of EVERY Age (18-38)

Most DISAPPOINTING Premier League Player Of EVERY Age (18-38)

The plans for ball kids at the Australian Open

Australian outlet The Age have reported some of the big changes for those lucky youngsters this year.

They say that the kids will no longer handle towels or drink bottles – with that instead left to the players.

The record 380 strong contingent will now be made up of 12 to 17 year-olds, in comparison to the 12-15 range from previous years.

The ball kids will be split into three groups instead of the usual one, while they will be encouraged to use hand sanitiser.

Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Masks, however, won’t be mandatory.

It promises to be a tough ask for everyone in Melbourne, not least the ball kids.

Those aspiring youngsters are usually in training from June. However, the global situation has meant training only began a couple of weeks ago.

We’ll all have to keep that in mind when the action gets underway Down Under.

In other news, Serena Williams signs first-look Amazon deal; Prime Video documentary series to follow