The Tennis Space on the leading men and women in the chair:
Steve Ullrich. As a tennis fan, even if you do not recognise Steve’s face, his voice may be the first one you think about if someone mentions a tennis umpire. His deep, soothing, American tones are familiar to tennis fans worldwide and have called five US Open finals. The man from Indianapolis, who started umpiring in 1979, has said: “I think the reason I’ve been able to last so long is because I have such a bad memory, so I don’t remember many of those bad moments. I can only go on for as long as my eyes last though, so I’d be happy with another couple of years.”
Eva Asderaki. Unfortunately for Asderaki, she will almost certainly be remembered as the umpire that faced the wrath of Serena Williams, being called “unattractive inside” at the 2011 US Open. Hailing from Greece, Eva came to be an umpire after playing as a junior and being asked to be a line judge for a tournament at her local club: “I liked it and I met people from other countries who told me about their experiences. It was something I really enjoyed, so I started!”
Jake Garner. As with Eva Asderaki, potentially, Jake Garner’s most memorable moment in the chair will be when he was on the receiving end of a rare Roger Federer outburst, during the 2009 US Open final. The fresh-faced American is one of the younger impires on the tour, but now has substantial experience of umpiring the biggest matches (most recently the 2012 US Open final).
Carlos Bernardes. The softly-spoken Brazilian is known for being one of the nicest characters in the tennis sphere, something that has been a burden to him in the past, with Tomas Berdych once accusing him of being scared of the top players, specifically Rafael Nadal. Bernardes explains: “The good thing about being an umpire is that you get to visit places you’ve never been before. I went to South Africa, it was a beautiful place. The hardest bit is being away from home. I miss my daughter.”
Lynn Welch. Before she took to the chair, Lynn Welch, who has been likened to Billie-Jean King in appearance, was a very talented player, winning several State singles championships in Maine, before going on to play College tennis. Unfortunately, injuries prevented Lynn from making it into the pro ranks.
Mohamed Lahyani. The Swede was in the chair for John Isner versus Nicolas Mahut marathon at Wimbledon in 2010, the longest match of all time. “It was amazing to be involved in such an extraordinary match,” he said. “I was so focused; I didn’t get a chance to think about eating or going to the bathroom.”
Lars Graff. He has been an umpire on the ATP Tour since 1994. Graff’s first experience as a chair umpire came as a junior, where, when playing in a tournament, after losing his match, he was asked to Umpire the next match on court. Having completed his mandatory National Service in the Swedish Navy, Graff then trained as an umpire throughout the 80s, before becoming a member of the ATP team in the early 1990s. Graff has said of his fame: “I think it’s odd. If I’m off-site and someone asks for a photo or autograph, I wouldn’t be doing the tennis world a favour if I didn’t do it. I always try to avoid it when on court though.”
Enric Molina. The man who hails from Barcelona was truly recognised as one of the best chair umpires in the business in 2005 when he was awarded with the responsibility of both the US Open final and the Davis Cup final. As the only Spaniard to hold a Gold Umpiring Badge, Molina, at the tender age of 38 is sure to be representing his country at the highest standard in the chair, just as Rafa Nadal and co. have represented it on the court, for years to come.
Alison Lang. She has umpired 11 grand slam finals. As a junior, she represented Northumberland Under 18s as a player, but soon decided to turn to officiating. Lang has worked her way through the ranks, first appearing as a line-judge at Wimbledon in 1993.
Pascal Maria. The Frenchman is one of the most experienced umpires on tour. Maria says that his job is easy as he has a real passion for the game and that he gets to watch it from the best seat in the house. Maria explains two negatives of the job: “Well when I started I had some hair, but now, nothing. One of the worst moments was during a junior final I was umpiring at Roland Garros. The trophy was near the chair, and the sun reflected off of the trophy and on to my hand. I didn’t realise, but by the end of the match, my hand was very burnt.”