An ace in the chair

"The numbers were not a problem. I've officiated matches with crowds swelling to more than 15,000, but you can never anticipate when they will shout. And during Davis Cup ties, you don't want to spoil the spectator experience. You need to let everyone have a good time," Haigh says.

However, the only thing that made his life easy was his chair. Fixed with a canopy and a cushion—something most umpires would consider a luxury—the chair was what the six-footer from UK enjoyed most. There was another highlight to his tiring day: a post-match 'thank you' from Paes—a remark umpires take as a gesture of their good performance. So, which other top-rung players had done the same? "Not many," he laughs, before adding that the Williams sisters had thanked him after an easy doubles win at Wimbledon last year.

For chair umpires, brickbats often outnumber the bouquets. Andy Roddick, once famously quipped during a match at Melbourne, Australia, "stay in school kids, or you'll end up being an umpire". Haigh quickly adds, "that wasn't me."

Haigh has officiated three John McEnroe matches. Famous for his on-court antics, Haigh says he's heard a lot of "you can't call that ball in" from McEnroe. "But I'm waiting for him to say 'you can't be serious' to me," Haigh says of the phrase that became synonymous with the temperamental American.

In an average two-hour match, a chair gets barely four to six minutes of break in between games. But, the umpire is not expected to relax. Haigh admits he loses sleep over bad calls, but players "giving you trouble" is not something he takes offence to. "It's nothing personal. If Andy Murrary shouts at you during play, it's probably because he's trying to get through a situation. He's trying to win a match by letting it on you."

... contd.

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