Bid to replace Wimbledon ball boys with dogs fails as they run away with them

Plans to replace ball boys and girls at Wimbledon with dogs has failed – as the playful pooches refused to return with the balls.

A trial took place at London’s Wilton Tennis Club ahead of the Wimbledon Finals next weekend – but tennis chiefs decided humans were quicker as dogs wouldn’t drop the balls without being given a treat.

During the experiment, the dogs underwent a series of speed and agility tests including running up and down the court and high-jumping over the net, reports The Star.

Club coordinator Martin Schiller said though the dogs excelled at ball retrieval they under-performed in other areas – including returning balls to the players.

He said the dogs love for tennis balls proved a little too strong as they were reluctant to give the ball back.

“Our players did find themselves in a game of tug-of-war,” he said. “We had a stash of treats on the sidelines to offer up as a bit of encouragement which certainly did the trick.”

The trial was backed by animal insurance provider ManyPets which encouraged the potential use of dogs on tennis courts.

ManyPets has contacted Wimbledon bosses urging them to consider swapping its 250 ball boys and girls for pooches.

The company is still waiting for a formal response. Every year around 1,000 teens apply to work at the tournament which started on Monday, June 27.

A quarter of the applicants are chosen to take part. Ball boys have been used since the 1920s but girls were only introduced in 1977.

Mixed ball teams followed in 1980 and ball girls were allowed on Centre Court for the first time in 1985.

The Brazil Open tennis tournament has previously used trained ball dogs from animal shelters in a bid to help find them new homes.