Mastercard serves up Australia’s first wheelchair ballkid pilot program

January 11, 2024 | Sydney, Australia
Mastercard has created and open-sourced a device together with its partners to make one of tennis’ most iconic roles more accessible than ever before.


Ballkids are essential to tennis tournaments, yet some kids do not have the opportunity to take part. As the tennis world gears up for the first Grand Slam of the year in Melbourne Park, Mastercard has unveiled Australia’s first wheelchair ballkid pilot program to demonstrate the potential of wheelchair users to be ballkids in tennis tournaments around the world.

Eleven-year-old wheelchair user and Junior Wheelchair Tennis Champion Sonny Rennison was the inaugural participant. To create the pilot program, Mastercard connected with a creative tech partner, Grand Slam trainers, and current and former world ranked players to support Sonny deliver the role at the high standard required by tennis players at Grand Slam tournaments.


During the program, Sonny and professional wheelchair tennis player Heath Davidson described the challenge that people in wheelchairs could face as they pick up and store balls while on the court.

From there, it was determined that Sonny would benefit from a device to help him collect the balls at ground level and store them while he undertook his ballkid duties on court.

To bring this to life, Mastercard worked with creative technology production company Streaker and disability consulting firm Get Skilled Access to design a solution that could support the experience for wheelchair users on the court. Together, a cutting-edge ball holder and collector was created specifically for wheelchair users.

Brigham Glaser, Managing Director, Streaker, reflected on the journey: “From discovery calls where we understood what Sonny needed to help him collect and store balls, to sound boarding concepts with tennis players like Alicia Molik and Heath Davidson, we learned and evolved to create a concept that truly supports Sonny in the flow of the game. During the design phase, Sonny provided feedback on the initial design sketches and from there we progressed to testing it out on court where we landed on a final design that will be available to everyone.” 


Guided by professional ballkid assessor, Diana Sutterby, Sonny hit the court to understand the foundations and skills required to fulfil the iconic role at a Grand Slam. The training occurred alongside five experienced ballkids, each with major tournament experience, covering all aspects of regular ballkid procedures including how to communicate on court, rolling techniques, court movement and how to best service players during a match.  

Diana saw great potential in Sonny and his ability to one day service a player in a major tournament match. Sutterby said, “This pilot is an important reminder that people of all abilities can participate in tennis programs and there doesn’t need to be limitations on who can apply and participate.”

To test the effectiveness of both the technology and the training, Mastercard Ambassador, former World No. 8 Singles Tennis Player and World No. 4 Wheelchair Tennis Player Heath Davidson took to the court to create a live simulation of a tournament-level match.

Heath Davidson, World No. 4 Wheelchair Tennis Player said, “Ballkids are a huge part of Grand Slams and tennis tournaments, however there are some kids who would love to be involved but don’t have the opportunity to take part. I’ve always wondered why kids in chairs can’t be ballkids, and this pilot demonstrated how feasible that could be. Hopefully this can be a starting point for those dreams to come true, demonstrating the potential future of tennis events.”

Sonny Rennison, 11-year-old wheelchair user and Junior Wheelchair Tennis Champion said, “I have never seen a wheelchair ballkid before, so I thought it would never happen which made me sad when I was younger. I am excited and thankful to have this opportunity and to hopefully encourage other kids in wheelchairs who might want to be ballkids but didn’t think they could, like me. I hope we can show them that nothing is impossible and to keep pursuing their dreams.”

Mastercard and its partners are building on this commitment by making the ball collector, holder and learnings from the pilot available to tournament organizers and tennis fans around the world, with anyone with a 3D printer able to produce the technology that was developed. The files will be made available via next week.

Richard Wormald, division president, Australasia, Mastercard, said, “Every year the tennis connects people around Australia with their passions, and with this execution Mastercard is championing inclusivity on the court. Mastercard would love to see this technology and the programs learnings brought to tennis tournaments around the world, so that everyone who is passionate about the sport feels like they belong.”

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Media Contacts

Amy McIntyre, Mastercard
+ 61 481 094 195 |

About Sonny Rennison

Sonny Rennison is an 11-year-old National High Performance Wheelchair Tennis Player, based in Melbourne. Sonny has used a wheelchair since the age of four when X-rays showed the head of both his thigh bones had deteriorated, which was causing limited movement of the hip joint, pain and limping. Between 2017 and 2019 he was completely non-weight bearing to protect the joints from further damage while tests to confirm a diagnosis were underway. At the age of six, Sonny was diagnosed with a rare genetic bone condition called Multiple Epiphyseal Dysplasia (MED). MED can affect the ends of all the long bones preventing them from forming properly causing pain, stiffness and problems with mobility. The main joints impacted for Sonny are his hips, but he also has issues with his shoulders, ankles and a leg length discrepancy.

Being in a wheelchair from a young age, Sonny was inspired to pick up tennis at the age of five, after watching heroes like Heath Davidson, Andy Murray and Dylan Alcott playing the sport at the Australian Open and on television. Sonny has even had the chance to do the coin toss for his favourite players on court at the Australian Open wheelchair tennis for five years running. Sonny now has a worldwide ranking of number 21 in the International Tennis Federation Junior Boys and has gone on to win multiple titles including the Under 14s Junior Singles and the Junior Doubles at the Australian Wheelchair Tennis National Championships 2023.


About Get Skilled Access

At GSA, we’re not just consultants; we’re people with disability, lived experience of disability and allies of disability inclusion. Along with our extensive array of professional skill sets, this authenticity infuses our process, making us uniquely positioned to guide organisations on their inclusive journey. We partner with our clients to provide genuine, tangible, and engaging experiences that drive inclusion and productivity. We firmly believe that changing misconceptions starts with open dialogue. Our vision is inclusion, choice and control for all people with disability, achieved through living our purpose of creating a new generation of disability inclusion that is equitable for all.


About Heath Davidson

Heath Davidson, the affable four-time Australian Open doubles champion and holder of two Paralympic medals, stands not just as a remarkable athlete but as a profound source of inspiration. Currently ranked #3 worldwide, Heath's impact transcends sports. Beyond the courts, he passionately serves as a motivational speaker, dedicated to giving back to his community and uplifting the spirits of youth. His commitment to making a lasting impact on lives offers a unique opportunity for those associating with him to champion an exceptional athlete and connect with diverse audiences.


About Alicia Molik

Alicia Molik (born 27 January 1981) is an Australian former professional tennis player. She reached a career-high singles ranking of world No. 8 and a career-high doubles ranking of world No. 6.

Molik won Grand Slam doubles titles at the 2005 Australian Open with Svetlana Kuznetsova. She also reached the finals of three mixed doubles Grand Slam tournaments: the 2004 Wimbledon Championships, the 2004 US Open, and the 2007 Wimbledon Championships.

Molik won a bronze medal in singles for Australia at the 2004 Summer Olympics by upsetting the then-world No. 3 and reigning French Open champion Anastasia Myskina. She also won the 2004 Zurich Open, defeating Maria Sharapova in the final, and reached the quarterfinals of the 2005 Australian Open.

Alicia is the Former Billie Jean King Cup Captain and now enjoys being a mother to her two children, a commentator and tournament director.


About Streaker

Streaker is an independent production company connecting brands with technology to create memorable experiences with purpose.

About Mastercard (NYSE: MA)

Mastercard is a global technology company in the payments industry. Our mission is to connect and power an inclusive, digital economy that benefits everyone, everywhere by making transactions safe, simple, smart and accessible. Using secure data and networks, partnerships and passion, our innovations and solutions help individuals, financial institutions, governments and businesses realize their greatest potential. With connections across more than 210 countries and territories, we are building a sustainable world that unlocks priceless possibilities for all.