An ace in the chair
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Haigh grew up in York, UK, playing tennis and was introduced to officiating by a family friend when he was 16. He recalls that the recruitment training was like taking part in X-Factor—tennis balls hurling at him to check his reflexes and eyesight and a test to see if he could call points loud enough. Now, Haigh is a member of an elite 45-member umpire group with silver badges. The next promotion would see him say 'game, set, match' at the Gentlemen's Singles Final at Wimbledon.
In 2008, Haigh was a linesman for the Wimbledon final between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer—an epic battle that lasted four hours 48 minutes and the longest final in Wimbledon history. "In some matches, when you see the intensity, you get this feeling of 'oh boy, this is gonna go long'. That match was so high quality that you could get dazed by the shot-making and lose track a bit," he reminisces. He was at the venue for over 10 hours. But Haigh has clocked even longer hours.
At a tournament in Germany, he was supervising 64 matches a day and the work alone lasted 15 hours. But the perks of the job balance it out, he says. "You get to watch the best matches at the best stadiums in the world." Another thing Haigh loves about his job is the travel. He has been to more than 20 countries and has seen everything from the Great Wall of China to the Leaning Tower of Pisa before he even turned 23. The only place left on his wish-list is South America. "Can't wait for Rio," he says of the 2016 Olympics.
In fact, the job requires so much globetrotting that Haigh shifted cities some months back just to be closer to a major airport. It does get lonely on the circuit but familiar faces help you get by, he says. After a Great Britain Davis Cup tie, he got one back for the umpires when he called Murray's fashion judgment "awful."