Can you play tennis at all?
Yes, I do. I used to play a little bit but I don´t play that much now. While I´m on tournaments I always take my rackets with me that I can play when I have a free time.
What did you know about Prague before you arrived?
I came here a years ago and I loved the city. I loved the Prague Castle, I had a tour in the city and it was beautiful. I think you have a good beer as well, and of course Czech Republic is well-known for tennis. I have quite a few memories with Czech tennis players but I’d rather keep them for myself if you don´t mind.
When and how did your career as a tennis umpire start?
It is such a long story so we would be sitting here for hours (laugh). So to be short, I did it when I was a kid just for fun. Actually it was quite funny, you are twelve years old and you have the right to say to adults „the ball is out, the ball is in“, and they have to listen to me. That was a funny part of it. But then it became more serious, I went for it and here I am.
Do you remember your first grand slam final you refereed?
Yes, it was Roland Garros in 2007 and I was so nervous. It was the grand slam final, the last match of the tournament, and people usually remember only that match so it was a pressure. However, we are always nervous, not only for finals. All matches are important. I try to relax before each match and to get positive energy from people in the audience when you see and feel their attention but I do not really have any rituals or something like that. I don´t want to be superstitious. Like if you have some coin, you need to have still the same one. And what if you lost it someday? No, no, I am always against that.
Do you mind travelling all the time?
Not at all, it´s a pleasure to travel and it also depends on what are you looking for. Once again, when I was a kid, for me, travelling was part of tennis. As a kid I used to watch TV, the black and white movies where people were living in hotels and penthouses. I found that very nice, it was cool to see that in the movies. I was thinking to myself that maybe one day I would be able to do that as well. And here I am now. Even if I don´t have my own room, I manage my dream.
Which qualities should good umpire have?
I think it is a mix of everything. Of course you need to see a ball well, that´s obvious. But communication is a big part of being an umpire as well, how you deal the things, how you deal the players. It is big part of it, you have to learn that. And what do I do to keep poker face? I try to stay calm even though inside me is volcano. Everything must stay inside. Like Zen.
Are your eyes in a good shape then?
Hopefully (laugh). Honestly, we have to have eyes check-up once a year. But it is also about confidence. If I think I´m blind, I would not be able to do this job.
Is it hard to keep poker face during matches?
Now with the mask it is super easy (smiling). But normally we get used to it, you learn that with a certain time. We need to be confident whatever we say. But if something is really funny, I laugh too. I´m a human and that happens. You know it usually depends on what is happening on the court so if everyone laughs I am not going to be the only one who does not.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Be careful of the routine. You can make mistake if you don´t focus. And you umpire match to match and routine is getting in and mistake can happen. You have to focus all the time.
How do you relax and what do you do in your leisure time?
Sometimes I go for walk, watch TV, some French classic, bit of Netflix like La Casa de Papel series. And while I am home I am taking care of my family and kids, this is another job actually so they keep me busy. And during tournament after long matches we have to evaluate the day, there is a paper work to do first. But then I can go to gym, go for a walk or nice restaurant.
Do you have favourite cuisine?
I do like Italian food, Indian food, sushi etc. I am very open minded with cuisine. Maybe that´s because I don´t cook, unfortunately.
What kind of music do you listen?
It is the same, very wide interest. From Frank Sinatra, to Drake, some French music as well, many, many of it. It depends on my mood. I also listen to radio quite often.
How many languages do you speak?
I speak only French, English and Spanish. It’s not too bad but it can always get better. But I can say the score in many languages (laughing). However, it is not so complicated. We always get a little form with the scores in the certain language so I sometimes take the paper with notes with me on court just that I do not forget it.
What language was the hardest for you?
Definitely Polish. They have some tough words. It was actually funny when I was in Poland and calling the score and people were laughing. That was a bit hard as I did not know what I was saying. At the end, I was calling the score when they the audience was clapping hands. That was my original technique (laugh).
What other profession would you like to try?
I like to be in contact with people. Maybe a speaker on radio or TV or I would not mind being involved in sports events as it has to be interesting to be behind the scenes and see the event from a different point of view.
What other sports would you like to referee if you had a chance?
I have never thought about it. I respect all sports but I think I would keep tennis anyway. I have friends who are professionals in football and rugby so we often talk about it. But at the end, we are happy where we are. However, I watch sport a lot, especially on the TV, of course I follow football but I really enjoy watching Olympic Games. I like these big events. Plus, I still watch tennis on the TV, even if it is only in the background.
Author: Eva Hromádková / Photos: @tennispragueopen /Pavel Lebeda (sport-pics.cz)