Justin Arrington-Holmes was handed a once in a lifetime opportunity but is kicking himself after his sorry mistake with a piece of sporting immortality.
Justin Arrington-Holmes was handed a once in a lifetime opportunity but is kicking himself after his sorry mistake with a piece of sporting immortality.

Ball boy swindled in $50,000 tennis blunder

US Open ball boy Justin Arrington-Holmes' heart must have sunk when first told the news.

The 21-year-old university student can be forgiven for needing a moment to compose himself after hearing he'd just given up a potential $50,000 payday.

Arrington-Holmes has a bright future ahead of him in the field of medicine, but he is going to have to do something drastic to ever be remembered for something other than being the guy that gave away a piece of sporting immortality for peanuts.

Arrington-Holmes has been revealed as the one-time owner of the racquet used by Serena Williams when she blew up during her 2018 US Open final loss to Naomi Osaka.

The racquet, which Williams demolished on Arthur Ashe Stadium, has found its way to an online sporting memorabilia auction site.

The problem is, the auction development is news to Arrington-Holmes.

The long-serving US Open ball boy has revealed to The New York Times he was given the racquet by Williams after the turbulent women's final and eventually sold it for $500.

The artefact of sporting legend is now being auctioned off online by Goldin Auctions this week.


Goldin Auctions founder Ken Goldin has said the item could reach a price of up to $50,000 when it concludes on December 7, despite bidding beginning at $2000.

Arrington-Holmes has admitted to The Times, he wishes he could go back and never sell the racquet the way he did.

"Looking back I wish I'd had someone help me with the process," he said. "I was not familiar with how any of this works. I just wanted to get rid of it."

As a student, he says, some spare spending money was all he was thinking about.

As a ball boy at the US Open since 2013, Arrington-Holmes says he developed a casual friendship with Williams and was particularly fond of her because she was one of the few players that took the time to learn his name and greet him when their paths crossed at Flushing Meadows.

After speaking to her after the match and posing for a photo with the 2018 US Open runner-up, Arrington-Holmes says Williams gifted him the misshapen racquet.

He put it away in his closet and didn't think much about it again until this year when he sold it to Brigandi Coins and Collectibles in Manhattan.



He jumped at the offer of $500 and handed over the racquet as well as a witness statement letter of genuine authenticity about the origins of the famous fluro green Wilson racquet.

He says he didn't think of it again until contacted by the New York Times recently where he soon learnt he could have turned his memorabilia item into $50,000.


The racquet is expected to reach such a high price because of its place at the centre of one of tennis' greatest controversies.

Williams broke the racquet after slamming it down hard into the court's surface during a moment of frustration during the second set against Osaka.

After losing the first set, the tense contest reached boiling point when Williams was handed a warning for being coached from the stands by long-time mentor Patrick Mouratoglou. Williams famously failed to grasp in that moment that she'd actually been warned.

A few minutes later Williams was handed a second code violation when she pulverised her racquet. She was docked a point as penalty for the two violations.

After sitting down to replace the racquet, Williams walked back onto the court to only then realise she'd forfeited the point as a result of the two warnings.

After spinning around and angrily complaining to chair umpire Carlos Ramos, Williams was issued a game penalty for a third code violation when she called the match official a "thief".

All hell broke loose from there as Williams demanded tournament officials hear her cries.

Williams also demanded an apology from Ramos during their argument.



"You owe me an apology. I've never cheated in my life. I have a daughter and stand for what's right for her," she said.

In the press conference following the match, Williams doubled down on the comments.

"I've seen other men call other umpires several things. I'm here fighting for women's rights and for women's equality," she said.

"For me to say 'thief' and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was sexist.

"He's never taken a game from a man because they said 'thief'. For me it blows my mind."

She was hit with a verbal abuse game penalty for her outburst and did not shake Ramos' hand after the match.

The 37-year-old Williams has lost all four major finals she has reached since returning from giving birth and simply can't find a way to take the final step needed to equal Margaret Court's record of 24 singles grand slam titles.

Williams endured another grand slam final nightmare in September at the US Open when she was stunned by 19-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu.