Game Set Match!

by Scott Langdon

January 2021

A tennis official gears down and encourages others to gear up.

Denis Shapovalov was struggling to handle his bigger opponent’s power. His ire bubbled to a boil as the match played out. Soothing words from an unexpected source helped calm the young Canadian and provided some helpful perspective. Shapovalov, a teenager at the time, was playing in the Outdoor Junior Nationals at the Ontario Racquet Club and Diane Guy, chair umpire for the match, took him aside when it was over.

“It was pretty clear that Denis was frustrated. I told him that his natural talent was obvious. His opponent was bigger and stronger and that his own growth spurt would come in time. Denis’ technical skills and passion for tennis were obvious. You could see he would continue to progress as he grew,” Guy recalled in a recent interview.

White Badge Umpire Diane Guy officiated junior, college and professional tennis for over 20 years.

A 20-year veteran of junior, college and professional tennis officiating in Canada, the United States and Europe, Guy recalls the Shapovalov incident fondly and says it is one of the benefits of being a tennis official.

“I remember being chair umpire for a U.S. college match that featured John Isner playing for the University of Georgia against the University of Miami. Like the situation with Denis, it is fun to think back and realize I have had the opportunity to watch some of the top players develop.”

Sometimes an umpire’s job goes beyond the chair. Umpire Diane Guy soothed a young junior, Denis Shapovalov, after a tough loss.

Guy was born in the United Kingdom, came to Canada at a young age, moved to the U.S. and is now living in Toronto. She and her husband spend the winter months in Florida. She started her officiating career innocently, playing club tennis when living in Minnesota and answering a call from the local association for more officials.

“Both of my sons were playing competitively so I was always around the courts. I took the required USTA courses at that time, became a provisional official doing local junior tournaments and then did U.S. college matches. I actually skipped the normal step of being a line umpire on the college circuit and started as a chair umpire.”

She progressed through junior and college competitions to the professional level as a chair umpire at tournaments such as the Vancouver Open and pre-qualifying and qualifying matches at Wimbledon. She has been a line umpire at Rogers Cup and U.S. Open.

Guy has not officiated in Canada in recent years but continues to do U.S. college matches during the winter, but only in Florida.

“The travel can become challenging at a stage of life when you want to be more available to your grandchildren. I haven’t worked a professional match in four years and asked the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to retire my White Badge in 2016,” she explained.

But Guy encourages others to consider tennis officiating in a part-time role or even, who knows, a professional career.

“If someone decided to pursue tennis officiating in their late teens at the end of high school, or in their university years it can provide some helpful money, some travel and great experiences, plus the opportunity to grow in the field.”

Roving Umpire Ali Tehrani oversees an OTA U10 match at the Aviva Centre. (Photo courtesy of Barry Kohl)

As Guy is scaling back her travel for more personal interests, Anne Bees is gearing up for another year of world travel in the dual role as tennis official and Manager, Officiating, Tennis Canada.

Bees moved to Vancouver in 1996 and lives there today. She is another native of the United Kingdom, raised in Wimbledon of all appropriate places, who entered officiating just as Guy did – watching her children play at the local community club. Today, she is an ITF Silver Badge Referee and ITF Chief of Officials, White Badge.

Anne Bees, Manager, Officiating for Tennis Canada oversees a Tennis Canada Wheelchair Tennis match.

“I was watching my children play one day, comfortably reading a book from time to time, when the official asked me to stand at the end of the court and call balls in and out. The thought was, apparently, that my British accent would make me sound stern,” she recalled with a chuckle.

“I then went to an officiating clinic and away we go, as they say.”

And go she does for about one half of every year, travelling across Canada and to far-flung locations such as Peru, The People’s Republic of China and others as the only full-time tennis official in Canada.

“My situation was an accident really. It is difficult to encourage younger people to aspire to a professional career because it is tough, only a handful make it a career, although clearly it is possible. I encourage people to think of tennis officiating more as an amazing hobby and a way to stay involved and give back to tennis,” she said.

“That ball was out!” – Future official Daniela Radinov works on her umpiring skills.

Roles, getting started

A simple starting point on the officiating journey is to first understand the roles of various tennis officials and then to enrol in a Tennis Canada Introduction to Officiating clinic, typically, two days, often during a weekend.

“My situation was an accident really. It is difficult to encourage younger people to aspire to a professional career because it is tough, only a handful make it a career, although clearly it is possible. I encourage people to think of tennis officiating more as an amazing hobby and a way to stay involved and give back to tennis,” she said.

  • Line umpire – assists the chair umpire to call balls in or out of the boundaries, among some other duties.
  • Roving umpire - a “chair umpire without a chair”, exercising jurisdiction over more than one court at a time for matches played without a chair umpire.
  • Chair umpire – responsible for all aspects of a match, applying the rules of tennis, code of conduct and tournament regulations.
  • Chief of officials – an assistant to the referee in the management of officials
  • Referee - the final on-site authority for the interpretation of the tournament rules and regulations, the code of conduct, the rules of tennis and for all other matters that immediately require resolution at the tournament site.

The ITF developed a program to ensure tennis officiating standards are consistent around the world from grassroots to Grand Slams. Levels include: National, Level 1 (ITF Green Badge); Level 2 (White Badge); Level 3 (Bronze, Silver, Gold badges). There are only about 50 Gold Badge referees in the world. Two are Canadian – Tony Cho of Waterloo and William Coffey, Montreal.

The Tennis Canada Officiating Program is responsible for the training, certification, designation and evaluation of all tennis officials across the country, in addition to co-ordinating all officials working at professional events in Canada. There are more than 300 tennis officials working at the local, provincial, national and international levels.

Chair umpire Scott Fraser officiates at an OTA tournament.

Tennis Canada works closely with provincial associations such as the OTA in the training, co-ordination and assignment of the officials in each province. Alison Dias, an experienced Ontario tennis official with many credits including line umpire at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, works at the University of Toronto and is the province’s officiating supervisor.

Attending an Introduction of Officiating clinic is the more important step in the early part of the journey.

This clinic introduces participants to the rules of tennis, the code of conduct and the basic techniques and procedures of officiating as well as the basic elements of being a line umpire, roving umpire and chair umpire. These clinics are staged in each province at various times throughout the year.

New officials are encouraged to gain as much experience as possible and then attend more advanced clinics where knowledge and abilities are developed further.

Bees and her team are currently revising the Introduction to Officiating clinic format and expect to announce changes early in 2021.

Gain experience, “being beige”

Bees says many officials starting out work local youth, seniors and wheelchair matches to gain experience, typically as a line umpire or roving umpire. Opportunities vary from province to province, but Bees says, “…the opportunities in Ontario are good because there are more tournaments generally and more higher-level tournaments in particular.”

“Having the time available and the aptitude for officiating is fundamental. So is learning to be beige in your dress and performance. I always remind people of the three Cs and the two Ps – cool, calm, collected and polite and punctual.”

Quyen Nguyen, Ottawa, and Kiki Dzombeta, Toronto, are two Ontario officials who started young and have gained valuable experience in the relatively small world of officiating in the global sport of tennis.

Nguyen, in her early 30s, started officiating a decade ago working local tournaments as line umpire and roving umpire; recalling that training opportunities in her early years were unpaid. She is now qualified to work international tournaments and has done so in Beijing, Shanghai, at the U.S. Open and, of course, the Rogers Cup.

Quyen Nguyen started officiating local tournaments and progressed to ATP and WTA events, including the Shanghai Masters.

“At my level, now, it is more difficult to find opportunities, although Tennis Canada has been supportive. Sometimes it is challenging to find the right balance with other aspects of life and the need to get more officiating experience to progress,” she explained.

Dzombeta, a university student, has also earned her way to work international events in Canada and has been line umpire at the Rogers Cup multiple times. “I do have some aspirations to progress in the roles available, but I have never considered something full-time because of school. It would be interesting to take more of a leadership-type role such as refereeing, for example. But I am patient and I am definitely willing to learn.”

Nguyen added: “The biggest need right now in Ontario is for roving officials. With the pandemic, there is less of a need for line umpires as the use of electronic line calling is available. I think a mix of younger and older people would be beneficial. If a younger person starts early enough, while they’re in school, there is a greater chance of retaining and developing them long term and for them to have a lifelong career or hobby.”

“Starting out as a tennis official is not a summer job like lifeguarding in the sense that it could take longer to get started because there is often unpaid training involved after completing the clinic. But it definitely can be a good part-time job for any age,” Dzombeta said.

Diane Guy agrees with Dzombeta and points to one of her sons as an example.

“He became an official after he stopped playing competitively while in university. He loved it. He could make a few hundred dollars working on a weekend and found it satisfying, as a former competitive player, to connect with the players and to understand what they were going through,” she said.

“Tennis officials don’t make a lot of money at the junior, college and lower professional levels. But for a younger person, the opportunity to be around a sport you love as well as great players and to travel as well can be attractive,” she added.

Stevan Stakusic, 17, of Toronto agrees with Guy.

“I completed the introductory clinic and it wasn’t long before I started roving at some junior tournaments. I was a soccer player, not a tennis player, but I really like this sport. It is a great learning experience and I do get to see great players which I enjoy. I love watching tennis,” he said.

And as a part-time job while still in high school?

“It’s pretty good, actually. I made one hundred and forty dollars a day one weekend and then you’re paid fifteen dollars an hour for every hour you’re there over ten hours. My only regret is I wish I had started to play tennis much younger. It is a great sport,” he said.

Guy might have chosen to gear down and officiate less, but her memories are many.

“At professional tournaments, you get access behind the scenes and see players away from the court as well as on it. I still remember my first experience as a line umpire at the Rogers Cup. I was standing within feet of great players such as Pete Sampras and Tommy Haas. I even remember Andy Roddick screaming at me over a call,” she said, laughing.

As outdoor tennis season gets closer and Covid-19 vaccines make us more hopeful, it might be prudent for current tennis officials to keep in mind their Cs and Ps and for aspiring ones to remember, as Diane Guy has proven, being an official is a good way to be involved with a sport you love.

Contact Anne Bees – – for more information about becoming an official and to learn about clinics in your area.