While my visit to Wimbledon 2016, I got chance to meet and interview Abhishek Mukherjee - One of the most experienced Tennis Officials, amongst a few Silver Badge Referees in Asia with over 20 years of experience in officiating. He has officiated in 2 olympics (Beijing and London) with the distinction of umpiring the Gold Medal match between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. He also happened to officiate the historic longest wimbledon Isner–Mahut match at the 2010 Wimbledon Championships.
TJ India: What attracted you to become a chair umpire? Did you have a tennis background?
I used to be a state level Tennis player and had played the circuit in the country. I always wanted to be in to sports and take it up as my profession. I also did Post Graduation in Sports Management. During this time i got an opportunity to be a part of a Davis Cup World Group tie in Kolkata initially as a ball kid when i was very young and later i was introduced to Line Umpiring. This is how it all started.
TJ India: What are the main attributes necessary to become a chair umpire? And What training is required?
To become a Tennis Official you have to be updated with latest ITF / WTA /ATP tennis rules. At a early stage officials get to work in the National events and slowly get the opportunity in the ITF events played in India. After few years of experience the official to appear in the ITF exams.
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TJ India: Do chair umpires usually have another job outside of tennis?
For majority Tennis Officials its not a full time job. They do have some jobs other than this and consider this as part time job or for their passion.
TJ India: What are your further aspirations in this career?
I always thrive to achieve higher in officiating , presently i would like do my best what ever opportunity i get in International officiating.
TJ India: What is the most memorable match you’ve officiated?
In 2010, at Wimbledon, I presided over the longest professional tennis match—the first-round match between Nicolas Mahut and John Isner on 22, 23 and 24 June. The match took 11 hours and five minutes of playing time, and had a total of 183 games. The fifth set alone went on for eight hours and 11 minutes, with 138 games. This match also carries a record of the most games played in a single day: 118, on 23 June. All these figures were staggering in terms of a single match. The level of concentration I needed for the duration of the match was very high. It was an epic battle of stamina and skill, and I am proud to have been part of it. Also i have been in 7 Grand Slam Finals as a line umpire.
TJ India: What is your best tournament to officiate and why?
There are many favorite tournaments i have round the world. Wimbledon is one of them. My grand slam journey had stared from here. We always have this India curry night between Wimbledon Qualifying and Main draw. It is hosted at the one of the British officials residence and quite a few officials are invited. The cooking part is done by the Indian officials mostly and the specialty is the curry we make every year of different kind. This popular event has become regular feature of our Wimbledon trip.
TJ India: How much travel is involved in your job? How do you and your family cope up with?
There is a lot of travelling involved through out the year for me. It is quite challenging for myself and my family to adjust to my schedule. I usually miss most of the family occasions due to my travelling. i am lucky that my family is right behind me to support my career.
TJ India: Being so close to International Tennis, what's your point of state of Indian Tennis and how can it be improved?
I believe that Indian Tennis is doing well now. The players need support and proper guidance from the very beginning.
TJ India: What is your advice for people who are interested in becoming a tennis official?
Its a very challenging job which keeps you away from your family mostly. Also its very time taking at times to achieve at some level. If someone loves travelling and Tennis then this could be one of the career to opt for.
TJ India: What's your take on TJ India's initiative to promote tennis in India?
I have been following TennisJunction India for a few years now and appreciate the approach and effort that has been put into. Anyone who love Indian tennis should be a part of this community. The updates are very prompt with plenty of useful information. Congratulations and keep up the good work !