Calling the shots from the sidelines. That’s what Revathi Sudhakar, Chief Umpire at the recent ATP Chennai Open, has become expert at after years of training and officiating at tournaments
“ATP asked me to do this tournament and I accepted the offer since Chennai is my hometown,” says Revathi Sudhakar, an ATP Chief Umpire who has officiated in 17 US Open finals, as we begin our chat on the sidelines of the Aircel ATP Chennai Open 2013.
The festive atmosphere around the tournament and the crackling sound from the centre court’s PA system threaten to disrupt our calm conversation but, like any other professional tennis official, she maintains her concentration and I immediately follow suit. Revathi explains the nature of her job which largely involves supervision of a tournament and appointment of match officials.
However, a chief umpire has much to do before the beginning of the tournament too. Line umpire training clinics are conducted under the gaze of Revathi, where the match officials are put through their paces. “It’s not just about making accurate line-calls but looking confident too,” she says as a mark of the level she expects from the personnel under her charge.
The unique nature of Revathi's job ensures that her experiences of the sport, understandably, offer a different perspective. The proximity to the players and yet an undying focus on the proceedings imparts a whole new vision to the game.
Revathi has spent her last 30 years in the USA, benefiting immensely from studying her peers in innumerable matches. “Watching” helped her a lot in becoming a better official. But why did she become an umpire?
“I come from a sports family and many of them were cricketers and tennis players. So, I got interested in tennis and played a lot of it at club level. Later, I didn’t have the time to become a chair umpire so I started doing this (a chief umpire). I was lucky to be seen by the right people in the USA,” remarks Revathi. Incidentally, her husband A. J. Martin Sudhakar is the secretary of Tamil Nadu State Volleyball Association.
Having worked in an age where officials have become more professional, Revathi believes that the system is more sophisticated now and ATP’s grading system is beneficial for the sport.
However, many hurdles still need to be crossed before this becomes a viable career option in India. The remuneration for the officials remains lower than the earnings at other Asian ATP events, let alone the European or American ones. Also, the present facilities for the umpires need to be upgraded and more women need to be encouraged to become professionals in this sphere of tennis.
“You need to shut off everything else when you’re on-court. This is the players’ office and they play for a lot of money,” opines Revathi. Hence, she adds, it is her job to ensure that everyone is in the proper frame of mind to officiate before a match and provide support to those who aren’t ready.
With technological introductions like the Hawk-Eye, Revathi believes it’s important for officials to not put pressure on themselves and use it as a tool. Finally, what’s the sine qua non for a tennis official? “You can’t do it until you love the sport.”