Umpiring: Aurélie Tourte, a woman in the chair

Translation of this online article

Aurélie Tourte
Aurélie Tourte,  standing on the left, the most highly ranked French umpire when she got her Silver Badge in 2014, travels around the world at the beck and call of tournaments.

It wasn’t love at first sight between umpiring and Aurélie Tourte.

“Me, I liked playing tournaments or team matches for my club in Plaisir (the Yvelines),” she explains. “I discovered umpiring via the ITF Futures organised by TC Plaisir and during team matches. Without being completely seduced.”

Around 20 at the time, Aurélie was taken in hand by two umpires who give her the chance of umpiring in Deauville during the ATP Rennes Challenger. It was the turning point.

“I was able to see professional umpires at work, and it started to interest me. Gradually, encouraged by Maryvonne Ayale, President of the CRA (Regional Umpiring Commission) and the Yvelines League, I got taken with it and started passing my certificates.”

In 2014, Aurélie umpired for 26 weeks (Roland Garros, US Open, Monte Carlo,  ATP 250s, the WTA tour, ATP Challengers), which led to her being granted the Silver Badge in December of last year.

“I was proud about getting it, but it wasn’t necessarily a surprise, as I’d umpired quite a few matches and got good evaluations.”

In 2015, her programme up to June was just as busy: Feucherolles, a Fed Cup in Sweden,  then Marseille, Acapulco, Monterrey, a break in March, the Saint Breuc Challenger, Monte Carlo, Marrakech, Aix-en-Provence, Strasbourg (WTA) then Roland-Garros. The objective was straightforward: getting to know the Top Ten players of the WTA and ATP. “I don’t know them, and they don’t know me. So I need to learn to talk to them, to get ‘run in’.”

Temping as a nurse

Despite careful planning, expenses (travel, hotels, food sometimes covered) paid, Aurélie still hasn’t made the choice between professions. A nurse by training, she takes advantage of the shortages in French hospitals to work as a temp when umpiring gives her the time. Of course, in daily life, the travel isn’t easy to manage.

“Sure, my apartment is more of a furniture warehouse,” smiles the 31-year-old woman who still lives in Plaisir. “And as a woman it’s difficult fitting it into family life.  But now that I’m the highest ranked French woman, I’d like to see where it leads, as there have been only two French Gold Badge umpires in history (Anne Lasserre and Sandra de Jenken).”

Among the necessary qualities required she cites, randomly,  excellent sight, good communication with the players and the public, but also being able to make quick decisions. And especially a strong character. What’s not obvious: “Promoting women’s umpiring is complicate in France as it is elsewhere. You need to find your place in a man’s world. But you learn about yourself, you discover countries, people, ways of life. If you have a passion for it, you must grab on to it.”

This passion has allowed Aurélie to experience some big moments such as the 2012 Olympics, where she was a line umpire for the five finals, and being in the chair for the mixed doubles final at Roland Garros in in 2013.

 

Translated by Mark Nixon

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Interview with Stefanos Tsitsipas

Original article: http://tennisportalen.se/stefanos-tsitsipas-i-intervju-med-tennisportalen/

Stefanos Tsitsipas is currently ranked as the world’s 17th best junior and perhaps the greatest talent Greece as a tennis nation has produced.  Tennisportal Editor Alex Theodoridis got hold of Stefanos through Twitter.

Stefanos Tsitsipas has played tennis since he was 6 years old, and he usually trains in Glyfada Tennis Club in Athens when he is not traveling and competing around the world. Although he is now trying to break into the senior level, Stefanos has a genuine interest in tennis.  In his spare time he voluntarily runs the Facebook groups TenniscoreITN and TenniscoreITT with 17000 and 2500 followers respectively.

You are the greatest talent Greece has produced in years, maybe in history – do you feel any pressure?

– Tennis is my passion. I am proud to represent Greece. My goal is to always do my best on the court, always be better. Pressure is just a word.

Where do you train in Greece in the summer? Are there any indoor courts nearby or do you simply practice in the evenings?

– I play a lot of tournaments in the summer in different countries so the warm climate of Greece does not interfere with my tennis.

Who do you train with at home?

– I work mostly with Theodoros Angelinos (866) and Paris Gemouchidis (formerly 582). Sometimes I practice with Alexandros Jakupovic (434).

How popular is tennis today in Greece and how well do you think it does against the more major sports in the country, such as basketball and football?

– Tennis is not as popular in Greece today but I still think that the popularity is increasing slowly. Tennis is however very expensive today.

Describe your strengths as a tennis player.

– The forehand is my biggest weapon, but I feel very stable in my ground strokes. Also my serve, when I feel it well.

You play with a one-handed backhand, something that we see less and less in today’s tennis compared to 20-30 years ago. Was it something that your coaches from a young age recommended or was it simply something that you wanted to teach yourself?

– It was my decision. I never liked the double-handed backhand and for me the one-handed backhand is the most natural stroke in tennis. Classic!

Which players do you currently look up to?

– I like Wawrinka, Del Potro and Federer. Each one for their own characteristics.

Why, do you think, have Greece not produced an established ATP Player earlier, when tennis today is a global sport with players from all over the world? Could it be economic or traditional aspect that comes into play?

– Well, partly it is the economic part and also the organization of Greek tennis. Our nation is not as structured and disciplined as the other countries in tennis. I can only take Constantinos Economidis and Theodoros Angelinos as living examples. They were two very talented players who were hungry, disciplined and determined. They really wanted to do something with their tennis. That’s what it comes down to, how much you are willing to sacrifice. It is tough, and you must be able to manage to travel all year round and be without friends and family.

The players had no support from the Greek Tennis Federation?

– I’ve spoken to them and they have hardly received any help, just a couple of plane tickets.

Do you get any financial support from the Greek Tennis Federation?

– No, but I’m already sponsored.

(The problems Tsitsipas are talking about are unfortunately something normal for many of the players on the Futures and Challenger Tours. Without financial support, it is almost impossible to take the steps into the ATP level, and some players thus have much greater ability to go all the way. While there is no guarantee at all of success whether you have financial support or not, the probability is of course much higher if you don’t.  That Economidis and Angelinos completely lacked financial support from the Greek Tennis Federation is of course shocking, but is at the same time says something about the country’s dismal status as a tennis nation.)

You finished third in the U18 European Championship in Switzerland a few weeks ago, was it the highlight of your career?

– It was a good experience, certainly, but I can not say it was the highlight of my career right away. A good tournament simply.

What does a typical day look like for you as a tennis player?

– I wake up, eat breakfast and then go and practice tennis. After that I go to the gym, lunch, rest, once again tennis, swimming, rest and sleep. I forgot dinner as well.

It sounds like a very hectic schedule?

– It is, absolutely. On Sundays I go to the movies though!

Have you dropped out of school or are you studying at a distance?

– I do all my courses through the Internet.

What have you to say about Mikael Ymer who is the same age as you, and additionally won the U18 European Championships?

– Mikael is a very good player with a great attitude. He really gives everything on the court and he’s always tough to face.

How does your schedule look for the rest of the year?

– I leave tomorrow for a 15,000 dollar tournament in Italy and then several Futures tournaments and Challenger-qualies are waiting for me.

We at Tennisportalen wish Stefanos the best of luck in his future tennis career and we want to thank him for taking the time to speak with us!

~

Translation of his original interview by Alex Theodoridis from tennisportalen.se  – https://twitter.com/tennisguru100

Interview with Alessandro Motti

Original: http://tennisportalen.se/alessandro-motti-i-oppenhjartig-intervju-med-tennisportalen/

The Italian doubles specialist Alessandro Motti was at the centre of controversy yesterday (Wednesday) when he and partner Albert Ramos were robbed of victory against Lindstedt /Brunström .  Alex Theodoridis from the Swedish tennis site Tennisportalen.se chats with Motti a day after the game.

Alessandro Motti is a 36 year old doubles specialist who is a regular face of the Challenger Tour, but who had sufficient ranking to get into the week’s doubles tournament in Båstad. Motti lined up with Spaniard Albert Ramos and the couple went out after a very questionable verdict in the final supertiebreak, where Motti afterwards could not understand how a judge could make such mistakes at the ATP level. We sat down in nearby café in the harbour just steps away from the center court.  Despite the disappointing loss from yesterday the Italian was in a good mood.

How is it that you played with Albert Ramos during this week’s tournament?

– Me and Albert know each other, and since my ranking made it possible to compete this week we talked and decided to play.

How is the process when finding doubles partners on the tour?

– We use WhatsApp, emails and social media. I have after many years on the tour bumped in into a lot of people and since I play a lot of the tournaments in Italy, I already know most of the players.

Motti turned pro in 2003 and during his 12-year-long career, has made a little over two million Swedish crowns – a salary that works out below the average cut of what a Swede earns in a month, and, when adding all expenses over the years on trips and hotels, the amount isn’t something to show off with.  Motti quickly becomes depressed when he describes the low prizes at the Challenger Tour.

– I am pleased that we have so many Challenger tournaments in Italy because I then travel by car and stay with acquaintances and thus save money. I also play a lot of national tournaments in both singles and doubles and it provides an extra income. Something must be done about the low prizes!

How often do you practice as a doubles player compared to single player?

– Really, it’s almost the same but in recent years I have been focusing less on tennis in the pre-season and more on taking care of my body in the gym – because it becomes more important the older I get.

How often do you think fixed matches on the challenger tour occur?

  • Sure there are, absolutely. It is a big problem on the Challenger circuit because of the low amounts of prize money and if they raise the amount in the future, we will find a solution to this problem. You have to understand why the problem occurs though, people do it to survive. It happens everywhere, look at football for example. Rich people do it to find new incomes.

A tennis player in Umag gets ten times more money if he loses in the first round compared to the Challenger tournament in Scheveningen this week, a frightful difference where the level of the players aren’t significantly different.

How is it that you mostly play doubles?

– I played a lot of singles earlier in the Futures tour and tried to regularly qualify in various Challengers but since my ranking rose fairly quickly in doubles and I started making money on it, I simply continued with it.

What can you tell us about Bolleli, Seppi and Fognini?

– Bolelli is more reserved and keeps mostly to himself. Seppi is a good friend of mine and we have known each other since we were young. A very nice and funny guy. Fognini is a bit younger and I do not know him so well but I know he’s a different person off the court.

Which players do you hang out with from the tour?

– Cipolla, Robert, Starace. I was very good friends with Di Mauro, Vagnozzi in the past but they are no longer competing at a professional level.

You met Enrico Becuzzi, a player that we have previously written about, in qualifying for the San Benedetto a few weeks ago. What was it like to play against him?

– (Laughs) Well, he’s wonderful. In training, he is good but the game unlocks it for him. He is not used to winning matches and does not know how he should act when things go bad. He is a very nice guy though, says Motti.

What do you think should be improved on the Challenger tour in the future?

– Hospitality for the players should be improved significantly – it has been improved in recent years but there is still opportunity for more.  Expenses need to be lessened for players to avoid such match-fixing, I mean, this is my job and I want to be able to have good conditions. I realize myself that Challenger players do not need to earn millions but still enough to be able to live a normal life. The pressure on the tour is very tough because you don’t want to lose in in the first round in a Challenger and thus not be making any money. I daily compete against players who are ranked within the top-150 in both single and doubles and the prize money in such a 250-tournament on the ATP level, where the level does not differ much from the Challenger, is striking. It’s not right. Something must be done.

Italy as a tennis nation has a bright future ahead with talented players like Matteo Donati (172), Gianluigi Quinzi (398), Stefano Napolitano (377) and Marco Cecchinato (99). Motti looks ahead at the bright future for the country in tennis.

– Donati is undoubtedly the one that has the most potential and he is also the one that is most consistent. Quinzi is very promising but he has had trouble finding the right coach and if he will only overcome the problem, it will end very well. Cecchinato is ranked within the top 100 today and is very talented.

Paolo Lorenzi is considered a living legend on the challenger tour, what have you to say about him?

(Laughs) – Paolo is a good friend of mine and he’s very professional with his tennis. He trains very hard every day and is a player who has improved a lot over the years. He is a smart player who constantly thinks out on the court. I like Paolo a lot.

“The umpire was afraid.”

The Italian was just a few measly points from the win with Albert Ramos against the all-Swedish couple Brunstrom / Lindstedt in the first round.  For a doubles specialist such as Motti, a win would mean a lot, not least financially when the prizes, as said, differ enormously on the ATP level as compared to the Challenger level where he is normally. Motti was mildly frustrated when he had the chance to describe yesterday’s situation.

– We have a ball as clear as day sitting on the line but the umpire chose to impose his call, despite all the players on the field agreeing that it is actually in. I didn’t know such mistakes occurred on the ATP tour. On the Futures and Challenger level, I can certainly understand it and some marks, regardless of level of umpires, can be very difficult to judge – but this was certainly not a mark in that category. The umpire was afraid during the match and felt the pressure. He was afraid to change the decision even though both Brunstrom and Lindstedt admitted afterwards that the mark was on the line. It should not be possible.

Motti traveled home to Italy a few hours after the interview was taking place for some well-needed rest and will compete at a challenger tournament in Biella next week. He lines up in the men’s doubles in Biella with Alessandro Giannessi.

Alessandro Motti suffered from food poisoning during the interview after he had eaten a pizza in the area the night before.  We are very thankful that he took the time to speak with us. A lovely man, Alessandro Motti.

~

Translation of his original interview by Alex Theodoridis from tennisportalen.se