Tough­est call for chair um­pire may be life­style

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By SUN XIAOCHEN sunx­i­aochen@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Sit­ting in the prime seat with the author­ity to rule over mil­lion­aire su­per­stars, a ten­nis chair um­pire may have one of the most cov­eted jobs in the game, but few have what it takes to be suc­cess­ful.

A chair um­pire must be able to re­frain from go­ing to the toi­let for as long as five hours, while con­stantly look­ing from side to side and main­tain­ing in­tense con­cen­tra­tion.

“Nor­mally, I don’t drink much be­fore um­pir­ing a match. And the tense at­mos­phere on court al­ways forces me to fo­cus on where ev­ery ball lands,” said Huang Shan, a 27-year-old Chi­nese um­pire.

Huang, a grad­u­ate stu­dent at Bei­jing Sport Univer­sity, passed all the writ­ten and prac­ti­cal tests at the International Ten­nis Fed­er­a­tion’s Level 3 School in Oc­to­ber to ob­tain a bronze badge, an en­try-level pro­fes­sional cer­tifi­cate that en­ti­tles her to of­fi­ci­ate in the finals of ITF Pro Cir­cuit tour­na­ments.

Huang has am­bi­tions to build a ca­reer as a full-time um­pire, but the chal­lenges that lie ahead to ob­tain the silver and the gold badge cer­tifi­cates will go be­yond mere test­ing of her phys­i­cal lim­its.

The skills that dis­tin­guish Grand Slam chair um­pires from those who only of­fi­ci­ate in do­mes­tic tour­na­ments in­clude be­ing flu­ent in English, be­ing flex­i­ble and rea­son­able in the use of the rules, and main­tain­ing com­po­sure dur­ing dis­putes.

Dur­ing her fi­nal de­feat to Aus­tralia’s Sa­man­tha Sto­sur at the 2011 US Open, 22-time Grand Slam sin­gles win­ner Ser­ena Wil­liams of the United States ver­bally abused chair um­pire Eva As­der­aki af­ter she docked Wil­liams a point for vi­o­la­tion of rules.

“The pres­sure is huge when you know your calls could be chal­lenged,” Huang said, re­call­ing her first time serv­ing as a line judge on a court equipped with an ea­gle-eye video re­view sys­tem dur­ing the 2011 China Open tour­na­ment.

“You have to stay ex­tremely fo­cused and try to cap­ture the im­age of the ball hit­ting the ground,” Huang said when of­fer­ing tips on how to make dif­fi­cult calls.

Ex­pe­ri­ence is vi­tal for um­pires to ad­vance, but the amount of per­sonal time that the job con­sumes due to trav­el­ing from one tour­na­ment to the next makes it dif­fi­cult for peo­ple to com­mit to be­ing full­time um­pires.

“In ad­di­tion to your knowl- edge, skills and ex­pe­ri­ence, how much of a ca­reer you can make de­pends on your abil­ity to en­dure trav­el­ing all year long and be­ing away from your fam­ily,” said Chen Shu, who in 2010 be­came the first Chi­nese ref­eree to be awarded a gold badge cer­tifi­cate.

As long as you find a way to over­come all the chal­lenges, the job of a full-time um­pire can be re­ward­ing, Huang said.

“The weekly al­lowance for a bronze-badge cer­tifi­cate holder is about 5,000 yuan ($724), and as much as three times that for a gold-badge cer­tifi­cate holder, in ad­di­tion to the op­por­tu­nity to travel around the world.”

Huang Shan

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