Umpires should ‘keep calm and carry on’
Since Tennis is not a team sport, and players play either alone or in twos, the pressure on singles players, especially in big matches, is immense and can be isolating. In such high pressure situations, and in moments of frustration, some loss of cool is only to be expected.editorials Updated: Sep 14, 2018 17:22 IST
What is sport without a referee? Without an adjudicator on the field whose word is final, and who is expected to enforce the rules of the game? “The Chair Umpire is much more than just the person who sits in a high chair and announces the score. They are the guardians of the rules of tennis and enforce them to ensure a match is played in a spirit of fair play,” reads the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) Officials page. At the highest level of the sport — such as in last week’s controversial US Open final between Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams — it can be a massive responsibility.
The history of tennis is rife with player-umpire frictions. John McEnroe, Ilie Năstase, and, more recently, Nick Kyrgios have found themselves disagreeing vehemently with on-court officials — from linespeople to chair umpires — on several occasions. Serena Williams herself is no stranger to on-court disagreements with officials, having had a showdown with a match official on the same court in 2009. She even ended up conceding the semi-final to Kim Clijsters on a point penalty. The role of the umpire when players feel that they have been unfairly treated must be to deescalate the situation, and prevent further aggravation. It is for this reason that most umpires ignore the complaints and grumblings of the players in the breaks between games. In some team sports, such as American football (played in the NFL), arguing with referees and showing aggression on the field is seen as evidence of players’ passion on the field and commentators see it as adding to the enjoyment of the game. But tennis is less forgiving of such aggression. Arguing with referees, smashing racquets, and aggression in anything other than play itself is seen to be in bad taste, and can be cause for point penalties.
Since tennis is not a team sport, and players play either alone or in twos, the pressure on singles players, especially in big matches, is immense and can be isolating. In such high pressure situations, and in moments of frustration, some loss of cool is only to be expected. Umpires thus have a large amount of discretion, while deciding whether a line of propriety has been crossed or not. Most umpires do not take players’ tirades on court personally, brushing off any perceived lack of respect as an expression of frustration rather than a personal attack. Perhaps keep calm and carry on should be their mantra.
First Published: Sep 14, 2018 17:20 IST