All I want for Christmas is…


Warning: I swear a bit!

Now I am going to have a moan… actually I am going to have a full on rant. On the hole I think that players on the Tour have a positive and respectful attitude towards Umpires and that sets a great example. Ok there are rare occasions out of the thousands of matches played each year that someone loses their cool, but the vast majority of matches are completed without a hitch. It is such a shame that some players lower down the rankings and juniors don’t follow this professional lead. I am not talking about the majority of players here… but there is usually at least 2 or 3 temper tantrums at each event I go to. It is important for so many reasons… staying calm normally helps you play better, you won’t end up paying hundreds of dollars in fines, and you won’t think that turning in to a vicious foul mouthed Rottweiler on the court is ok.

A player once said to me “What goes on court stays on court, you know?” No I do not know, and I profoundly disagree.

I have been playing tennis a long time, and I get it. All the work you put in day in day out, the pain and exhaustion, the triumphs and agony, gaining points, defending points, flying all around the world, sacrificing everything you can and its all led to this moment right here. You have been battling for 3 hours in 30 degrees, put everything you have got in to every shot you have played, clawed your way back up the mudslide from a set that didn’t go quite your way, and then… “WHAT? ARE YOU F***ING KIDDING ME?! IT WAS ON THE LINE, IT WAS ON THE LINE!!! ARE YOU BLIND? OR JUST A SHIT UMPIRE? HOW CAN YOU NOT SEE THAT IT IS RIGHT UNDER YOUR NOSE? DO YOU WANT TO BORROW MY 90 YEAR OLD GRANDMOTHERS GLASSES BECAUSE SHE COULD DO A BETTER JOB!!!”

Unfortunately I witness this type of behavior week in week out. I have seen an Umpire reduced to tears, heard them tell the referee “I really don’t want to chair his match, I felt really intimidated last time”. I have even seen an Umpire have enough of the abuse in a match and replace himself, walking off to the laughter of the taunting player before the final set begun. Three weeks ago at a 10K a girl managed to… oh it will just be easier if I use bullet points for this one;

  • Stick her middle finger up at him
  • Brake her racket
  • Smack the Umpire’s chair with her racket
  • Mock him in a particularly nasty way by confirming every call made regardless of how far out it was
  • Nail a ball straight at his face (which missed)
  • And call him numerous other names in rather colourful language that I can’t remember (I was playing a match on the next court and finding this vile girl rather irritating)

She remarkably managed all of this only receiving 2 code violations and a point deduction. It should have been a default, but annoyingly she won the match.

This is utterly atrocious behavior and it is inexcusable. This Umpire is doing his best, sitting in a very low chair, calling all the lines, with you sticking your finger up every 5 seconds trying to convince him to call any of her shots that get remotely intimate with the line. Yes, alright I understand that he is not very good, and yes you are right, the ball was in, but don’t act like the Umpire has a personal vendetta against you, you really aren’t that important. He is in fact a beginner, and that is why he is at 10Ks, oh and by the way that is why you are at 10Ks as well… because you are a beginner. So you are allowed to make 40 mistakes in a match and then go all stroppy, tantrum, spoilt 5 year old when your coach decides to have a go at you… but the umpire is only allowed one mistake before you blow your lid? Grow up.

Now I don’t mind players having an argument with an umpire in the heat of the moment, I endeavor not to but I did a couple of times when I was younger and I understand… what’s more the Umpire understands that too. But when you start telling someone they are shit at their job or that your Gran could do a better job oh and by the way you went to her funeral last week, that is just a personal attack on another human being and you are trying to bully them. That is uncalled for and unacceptable. Off the court would you ever tell anyone that they are shit at their job? If someone in an office job were to royally cock something up which then meant you had to work all weekend fixing it, you might get annoyed, you might get really annoyed… but you wouldn’t start hurling abuse at them and tell them that dead Granny could do a better job and they are only good for cleaning toilets. Well… maybe Malcolm Tucker would.

Umpiring is actually an incredibly competitive field. It takes just as many years to climb to the top of chair umpiring as it does to the top of playing. They often have officials judging their performances, especially if they trying to gain a higher badge, and are nervous enough. If you are expecting the likes of James Keothavong to turn up to a 10K on his week off from the Tour to umpire your little game of tennis, you will be tremendously disappointed. He is world class so the players he umpires are world class. Your Umpire is not because you are not. You WILL have bad calls and they will work both ways, that’s life.

Complain to an Umpire, tell them they are wrong, and argue with them if you must but don’t take your frustrations out on them and turn it in to a one sided personal attack. They can’t defend themselves, they can’t do anything but sit still politely listening to your barrage of abuse. They aren’t allowed to say anything to you when you were match point up just in time for lunch, but then decided to have a meltdown and keep them on the court for another 2 hours and now they are still there desperate for the loo. Be reasonable and fair and just play tennis for f**ks sake.

4 thoughts on “All I want for Christmas is…

  1. This is absolutely brilliant, and extremely well said. Naomi, your time away from tennis has probably served you unbelievably well in your wisdom and maturity. I wish you every success achieved in the right way. Merry Christmas and lets have a great 2015, Following you all the way 🙂


  2. Hi Naomi,

    I’d like to hear more about your finances, especially in the light of the LTA cutting prize money top-ups, so far dropping 3 UK ITF 25k tournaments in the first quarter of 2015, and announcing that it will be restricting Wimbledon wildcard criteria. The Telegraph has the best coverage.

    According to the WTA site, since your comeback you have made about £5k in prize money over the last 6 months, which is actually extraordinarily good: dependent on you winning 3 tournaments, and being one of the fastest-rising-thru-the-rankings players in the world.

    As I understand it, a tennis coach can charge £30 per hour; in which case you could earn more, at no risk, by working one day per week, without ever leaving Surrey.

    Looks to me that the super massive black hole is pretty damned effective at sucking in all available funds; when last I looked, you are now about 11th ranked UK woman player based on only 6 months results.

    Very curious to know how much of the £32M given annually by the AELTC to the LTA ends up being allegedly “wasted” on subsidising “lazy” players in the “paradise” of the ITF circuit.

    With both Naomi B and Tara M (UK ranking 3 +4) going on the record in the last year to explain that they could hardly afford to continue playing, even under the old scheme; with the current and previous carnage among the UK male ranks, my personal opinion is that the LTA is now clearly unfit for yet another purpose; my dead Granny could do a better job and they are only good for cleaning toilets.

    Anyway, good luck in the New Year.Hope to see you continue to make a living.


  3. Great rant on players being idiots to umpires. I agree with everything you said. Especially love how you point out that the low ranking justifies the umpire level you get. So many young players have a sense of entitlement. Best of luck on your comeback!


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