© Ella Ling

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Diary - How did the umpire help the deaf junior?


With the exception of the umpire who didn’t know the rule about offering your opponent the choice at the coin toss, after you’ve won it, the officials at the Australian Open have had a good tournament so far, which you can judge by the fact that they have not been centre of attention.

Of course there is the odd bad call and the on-going bizarre situation where players ask the umpires whether they think a ball is in or out before deciding to challenge. That needs to be stopped, but that’s a side issue. They have been doing a good job, as they usually do.

However, sometimes they don’t help themselves. I watched Lee Duckhee, the 14-year-old Korean junior, who was playing his second-round match against Christian Garin. Though Garin went on to win the match, I was watching to see how the umpire, Thomas Sweeney, communicated with Lee.

Now Lee is deaf, but manages to deal with his disability superbly and has been tipped for a big future on Tour. Having watched Sweeney do some basic gesturing toward Lee to let him know the odd thing, I was keen to ask the umpire whether he had been told about Lee’s deafness beforehand and how he dealt with it.

Unfortunately, the umpires’ office at the Australian Open decided that Sweeney would not be allowed to speak to me about it. In theory, umpires are allowed to discuss general umpiring issues – of which this was one – but not individual matches. As I said, sometimes they just don’t help themselves. This is a good news story, one that received a lot of attention and Lee deserves better. Maybe they will change their policy one day.


Inside the press room at Melbourne Park, journalists can watch a number of courts without leaving their chair. While this obviously rewards lazy journalists, it is also invaluable when they are too busy to get out there. Unfortunately, having shown seven courts in the first week, the cameras on Court No 6 and Court No 8 were turned off on Monday.

That was a shame since both courts had a number of junior matches on. IBM, which controls the cameras, said they it had turned them off but would not confirm that it was done for financial reasons. I can’t think of any other reason it would have done it.


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