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Vandeweghe wins - fans

Lobsters ballboys also cheerleaders

By Nicole Auerbach
Globe Correspondent / July 6, 2011

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MIDDLETON - There are fan favorites. Then there are ballboy favorites.

Every time Coco Vandeweghe takes the court for the Boston Lobsters, she can expect to hear the voices of her two biggest fans - 12-year-old ballboys Garrett Husslage and Sam Ades.

The boys, who are friends, stood in the ballboy corner last night leading cheers like, “You go, Co-co.’’ When Lobsters announcer Steve Calechman asked Husslage and Ades before Vandeweghe’s serves what they wanted to see, they screamed back, “Hot Coco!’’ - Lobster slang for a Vandeweghe ace or winner.

She had plenty of those last night, winning all three events she played in: women’s singles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles. And the Lobsters beat the New York Sportimes, 25-16, in their season opener at the Ferncroft Country Club.

The victory also served as revenge; last summer’s Lobsters’ season ended when they lost the Eastern Conference championship to the Sportimes, 22-17. The familiar foes will face each other tonight, too, but this time in New York.

It’s not surprising the Lobsters’ announcer knew the boys’ names. Husslage and Ades attended most of the Lobsters home matches last season. (Ades’s mother had season tickets.) That’s when the boys gained their superfan reputations, and that’s when they decided Vandeweghe was their favorite player.

“She’s a great player and she’s fun,’’ Husslage said. “She’s interactive.’’

Since she is the Lobsters’ most vocal team member - starting chants herself during the men’s matches - it makes sense that she loves hearing Husslage and Ades cheering for her.

“That’s totally what World TeamTennis is about,’’ Vandeweghe said. “I knew them from last year. They came out - gosh, it felt like every match. That’s the point of World TeamTennis, having the crowd involved and making it more like an arena sport.’’

Vandeweghe, 19, said she enjoys playing with the Lobsters so much because she grew up around team sports, like basketball and volleyball. Her mother, Tauna, was a member of the US swimming team at the 1976 Olympics and won a silver medal in volleyball in the 1984 Olympics. Vandeweghe’s uncle, Kiki, played in the NBA for 13 years.

For a few weeks each summer, she returns to that team mindset she grew up around. This is her third season playing World TeamTennis, and her second with the Lobsters. She is currently ranked No. 98 in the world in singles.

Last year, Vandeweghe helped spark Husslage’s and Ades’s interest in the Lobsters. After nearly a year apart, the three of them were reunited on the court. During a brief rain delay in the opening men’s single match - which Lobsters’ Jan-Michael Gambill won, 5-2 - Vandeweghe went over to the ballboys to joke around.

Husslage and Ades signed up to be ballboys prior to the season, and a few weeks ago, they attended a ballboy practice. There they learned what their duties would be during sets. The Lobsters have more than a dozen ball kids this summer.

Both boys play tennis and love the sport; Husslage said he’s playing in a summer camp.

But going to - and now working - Lobsters matches gives them something they can’t gain by just playing tennis or watching the sport on TV.

“I like how it gives kids a chance to see men’s doubles, women’s singles, everything across the board,’’ Ades said. “You can see greats like John McEnroe and Serena Williams. It’s really cool because you get to see new people play some of the Grand Slam winners.’’

And, of course, their favorite returning players.

Correction: Because of incorrect information provided to the Globe, the Olympic experience of Tauna Vandeweghe, mother of Boston Lobsters tennis player Coco Vandeweghe, was incorrect in an earlier version of this story. She did not medal as a member of the US swimming team in the Olympic Games in Montreal in 1976.