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At U.S. Open, Francesca Schiavone's embrace of ballperson Brian Shu becomes global sensation

Francesca Schiavone of Italy hugs a ball boy

Francesca Schiavone of Italy hugs a ball boy during her first round women's singles match against Serena Williams on Day One of the 2013 U.S. Open. (Aug. 26, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

With a single hug on Monday, a U.S. Open ballperson from Queens has become a global sensation.

During a tough loss to reigning champion Serena Williams, Italian player Francesca Schiavone suddenly took comfort on the shoulder of ballperson Brian Shu, 30.

Shu, from Forest Hills, allowed the brief embrace as the crowd cooed, "Aaaawww."

"I was kind of shocked," the 10-year tournament veteran said last night. "I thought she wanted the ball."

He added, "We're not supposed to engage with the players. . . . But I thought it was a great moment."

Schiavone, 33, who lost in straight sets 6-0, 6-1, told reporters afterward that it was "just a joke."

"I don't need a hug in that moment. I need a game, points. . . . I went to the ball boy to say, 'Well, that's tough.' "

Shu, holding tennis balls in his left hand at the time, initially looked startled as Schiavone approached. But then he smiled -- and even patted her back with his right hand.

U.S. Tennis Association officials told him he handled himself professionally, and friends have congratulated him on his newfound fame, said Shu, who works for a marketing company.

His favorite moment as a U.S. Open ballperson, he said, is still the 2011 semifinal between his favorite player, Roger Federer, and top rival Novak Djokovic.

"But this is a close second," Shu said.

New York Sports