Lalit Mohan Singh shares his experience of officiating at Wimbledon
Good players draw your attention all the time. But, good umpires are often invisible! Efficiency is expected from them, and taken for granted. If you have not heard of umpire Lalit Mohan Singh, who has been officiating at Wimbledon, you know the reason!
The 32-year-old Lalit has managed to avoid the heat and humidity of Delhi to be at the Championships. “English summers are always interesting. You can experience all seasons in one day here,” Lalit remarks.
An ITF bronze badge umpire, Lalit says that he is pleased to be back in Wimbledon after two successive stints in 2005 and 2006. Though he has been restricted to doing the qualifying events in Roehampton, including the juniors, Lalit says that he would get his turn on the big stage. “At the Australian Open in 2010, I was the chair umpire for a second round women’s match. So, I have the confidence to figure in the main draw at the Grand Slams. My goal is to achieve higher standards in officiating,’’ he says.
A student of Modern School, Barakhamba Road, who captained the Hindu College tennis team to the inter-college title, Lalit has rich experience of having officiated in the Paralympics in Beijing and London; the Asian Games in Doha and Guangzhou; Davis Cup and Fed Cup matches, apart from ATP and WTA events. In fact, he was selected in an elite group of six umpires from around the world in 2011, to officiate in ATP, WTA and ITF events.
Yet, there is nothing to match the charm of tennis in London.
“Not many know that the qualifying event is played on temporary courts put up on a cricket ground in Roehampton. It is unbelievable to see cricket and tennis being played side by side. Strawberry and cream tastes the best in London,” he says, with understandable joy. The camaraderie between the officials is quite strong, as many from India make it to Wimbledon every year. “We stay with friends in hotels or hostels. We travel in buses and on the tube. As most of us stay together, we share interesting cases, new procedures as well as some funny and serious incidents we experience during the matches,” he says.
“When you officiate in a Grand Slam, you are expected to be the best at your work. It is hard work, as the number of matches is high. You observe the top officials working equally hard and realise that you too can reach that level some day. In big tournaments, the experienced officials guide us through out and help us in polishing our skill,” says Lalit, who aspires to qualify for the silver and gold badge, in due course of time.
For someone who was asked to umpire after he had lost a match during the DSCL national championship by the AITA supervisor Dushan Deo, Lalit has indeed come a long way. In fact, he has travelled far and wide as a tennis official. Of course, the inspiration and considerable guidance was from silver badge referee Puneet Gupta, one of the pioneers among tennis officials in the country, who has handled all types of events including the Atlanta and Sydney Olympics, before he settled down to events closer to his home in Delhi, and a few spread around the world.
Though he was one of the top five juniors in Delhi and played international junior events, Lalit did not pursue tennis the way his brother Ashutosh Singh and sister Shalini Thakur did, by playing top class tennis and graduating to quality coaching.
“I never saw myself playing in Grand Slams. That dream was achieved by officiating in Slams. I knew my capacity as a player. This was a great way to earn a living and do what you like to do. Officiating is a great career option, especially for former players and for people with knowledge of the game. It is a great way to travel to different places and meet different people. I thank my family who believed in what I believed. It helped in getting a different career option,’’ he gushes.
Lalit’s father Balram Singh was a quality player and a seasoned coach. Currently he serves as a member of the national selection committee. When you keep an open mind, opportunities open up. Lalit Mohan Singh grabbed his chance to make his way to Wimbledon.