“For me getting a bronze badge medal (in 2006) in Doha was like winning an ATP title,” said Lalit Mohan, the 33-year-old Indian chair umpire at the 2014 Aircel Chennai Open.
“It was an excellent feeling as I was the only one from the country to have passed the exam (then). Very few people clear the exam. I had a small party with friends and colleagues and after a few days I was back to officiating.”
As the only Indian officiating at the Chennai Open, Lalit is enjoying his job here. He has been officiating here for the past two editions. “I love to come back here. Everything is good here,” he said.
Lalit, who is one of the three officials from India to have got a bronze badge medal, feels doing duty (chair umpire) for Davis Cup offers one a different experience than an ATP event or the Grand Slams.
“Davis Cup is not about two opponents (as in ATP), it is about two nations. Davis Cup is (more) about the electrifying atmosphere, the (noisy) crowd and the concept of a live rubber,” said Lalit, who has officiated in several ties in India and abroad.
“Officiating in Davis Cup has been satisfying as far as my work performance is concerned.”Patience is the key
The people who pursue umpiring should have patience, said Lalit.
He feels remuneration is not a concern for those interested in officiating, but believes travelling extensively leaves one with little time for family.
“With more number of tournaments coming to India: the ITF juniors, Futures and Challengers, Davis Cup, National championships in seniors and juniors, it will be a good launching pad for young officials,” he said.
Lalit officiated as a linesman at Wimbledon on three occasions — 2005, 2006 & 2013 — and a chair umpire at the 2010 Australian Open. But being at SW19 was an experience that Lalit could not forget.“Nothing can match Wimbledon,” he said.
Pushed by chief referee Dusheon Dev into officiating during his school days at the 1998 Shriram National championship, Lalit got addicted to it and finally found his niche. From 1999 to 2002, he officiated as a chair umpire in many National-level tournaments.
“It was only when I cleared the white badge exam in Bangkok in 2002 that I realised that I can stay at that level,” Lalit said. His ambition is to officiate as a chair umpire at Wimbledon. “That’s my dream,” he said.