Working the net: Locals volunteer at tennis tourney being held in Norcross

Photo: David McGregor. Alexis Lee retrieves a shot into the net during a doubles match at this week's Atlanta Tennis Championships at Racquet Club of the South in Norcross.

Photo: David McGregor. Alexis Lee retrieves a shot into the net during a doubles match at this week's Atlanta Tennis Championships at Racquet Club of the South in Norcross.

NORCROSS -- They come from all walks of life and sometimes come in sets of twins, but they have one thing in common -- a passion for tennis.

They are the volunteers who fill the roles that sometimes go unnoticed, but they also handle responsibilities that are necessary to the operation of a successful event.

During this week's Atlanta Tennis Championships at Racquet Club of the South, volunteers are everywhere -- on the courts, around the courts, in the stands, behind the concession stands and throughout the clubhouse.

They greet you as you enter the facility, they help you find your seat and they chase down tennis balls in nearly 100-degree heat.

No tournament could run without them and they volunteer because of their love for the game and desire to be around the area's lone stop on the pro tour.

Take, for example, twins Alexis and Tommy Lee of Grayson.

They are rising seniors at Grayson High School and play on the Rams' tennis team. So while most kids are hanging out this summer and waiting for the new school year to begin, Alexis and Tommy are getting to see professional tennis up close and personal.

"This is a great way to get up close to a professional tennis tournament and see some of the best players in the world play," said Alexis, who is looking at colleges in the Carolinas and Georgia. "It's my first year of working this event after I went to the tournament last year (at Atlanta Athletic Club) with my mom and it's been a lot of fun. And it's really just right down the road."

Alexis' brother agrees.

"I really didn't have any expectations coming into this (tournament), so it's been a great experience getting to work along side professional players," said Tommy, who is considering college at a military institute such as the United States Air Force Academy. "You get to see how dedicated they are to their sport and how hard they play. Once I got out there, I realized how fun it is."

Not only do they retrieve the tennis balls after a point, they grab a towel for the players between points and return it back to the sideline. And sometimes they just try to stay out of the way of some hard-hit shots that travel well over 100 mph.

When you drive around metro Atlanta neighborhoods and parks on any given night, there's probably a match going on -- featuring both adults and kids. Tennis is one of those sports that once it gets in your blood, it tends to stay there for life.

That's the case with volunteer Terri Wiley, who is a music teacher by profession and also a tennis junkie.

Wiley resides in Buford and teaches at Dacula Middle School, but once worked for the USTA Southern office. This week, she is a shift leader for ushers.

She's been working at the tournament all week. From about 1:30 p.m. until the final match ends about 11 p.m., Wiley is there assisting and getting ushers in the right places at the right times.

"I do (volunteering) because of my love of the game, but also because of my love for people," said Wiley, who also helps out with other USTA events as well as the Chick-fil-A Bowl every December. "It's that passion I have for the game of tennis, but there's something about watching people come together for a common cause and it's a beautiful thing to watch a product like this (tournament) come together."

Along with four other shift leaders, Wiley coordinates more than 200 volunteers during the weeklong tournament. And she knows that it takes every single of one of them to make this event work; otherwise, Atlanta wouldn't be able to host an ATP event.

"With over 100,000 people involved playing tennis in Atlanta, it speaks volumes about Atlanta tennis," Wiley said. "We're fortunate to have a professional tennis tournament back in Atlanta and there's nothing better than being here this week. I hope the tennis fans of Atlanta come out and support this tournament so we can keep it here. I would love to come back here every year."

Claire Botsch, who resides in Dunwoody and is helping out with volunteer services check-in, agrees.

"I've played tennis for over 20 years in both USTA and ALTA, and I've found out that being around tennis is like being a member of a family," said Botsch, whose husband Mark is a past president of USTA Atlanta. "You have that same feeling of working together and being together. We lean on each other for help. I don't know if the people of Atlanta understand what a great event this is. The USTA does a great job of hosting and we need to keep the tournament here in Atlanta."