The journey to Brno, from where I live, in the North East of England was never going to be an easy one but driving away from home at 04:30 I was determined to have a successful tournament. Arriving at the tournament hotel at 22:40 meant I was only 40 minutes later than planned and that I had missed the briefing, but I was here. Missing the briefing is never the best start to a tournament but I soon got the information I needed and readied myself for a long day on the Thursday. The hotel was a bit plain from the outside but very nice inside and the tournament venue was not even 50 yards away, bonus!!
Thursday dawned and after breakfast and greeting other officials, friends old and new, the day’s work began. 5 courts and lots of games to get through but the day went well. Only issues were timing of meal breaks.... well there's a first. Got to be said the food was good and, before anybody says anything, it's not very often I say that. Day one was mainly singles and with day two beginning early, again with a brief briefing, continued with a good mix of matches in all five disciplines. Meal timing issues behind us day two finished earlier than expected, midnight was mentioned more than once but 21:30 was the time the last matches took to the court, so time for everyone to have some down time away from the court. Saturday brought the quarters, on four courts, and semi-finals on two courts and still England had two pairs fighting for honours. So far, any discipline issues had been very few and far between, with a few signs of petulance, but nothing that a well-directed glance or a quiet word in the ear didn’t help keep a lid on. Quarters behind us and after a break, long enough for everyone to enjoy some food and some rest time. The line judges had been organised into two separate shifts so had managed to arrange themselves a tour around the town centre of Brno. Unfortunately, or fortunately whichever camp your feet are in, the umpires were on duty for the full length of Saturdays play so the centre of Brno was a treat not open to us but from photographs I saw later it was clear we had missed a treat.
So, the evening brought the semi-finals on two courts and at the semi-final briefing the list was issued giving the names of the umpires who had performed well enough to be given duties on the finals day - pleased to find my name on that list. The crowd was pretty low throughout the event so far and the semi-finals were bucking that trend, yes there were a few more people but not a great increase considering it was a Saturday evening and the semi-finals. There were some good matches in the semi-finals, as there should be at this stage, and still the matches were well controlled. I myself took charge of my third women’s doubles of the event involving the number one seeds, from France, and true to form they progressed to the following days final where, pleased to say, they would be facing an English pair.
Finals day arrives, and after breakfast and checking out of the hotel, we reported for duty and I was pleased to see I was in charge of, my first, mixed doubles match of the event and that my match would be the first of the day. So, after making sure my parting was straight, my teeth were cleaned, my shoes were shiny, the microphone pack was secure on my belt and the headset was comfortably secured around my head and ears, I led the players and my team of officials confidently onto the court. My service judge was Pekka Saarinen from Finland, one of my new friends from the event and we had previously had worked twice, successfully, in this configuration earlier on in the competition. In my opinion my final was the most entertaining of the five, closely followed by the women’s doubles which the English pair went on to win, as my final was a hard, closely fought three ender with the French duo eventually prevailing over the younger looking Danes. After leading the players, and team of officials, off the court my job was done and my visit to Brno ending successfully now for the journey home. One constant issue, mainly affecting the finals court, court 1, was the carpet constantly lifting and being taped repeatedly and unfortunately it reared up during my final, delaying the game for a minute.
Setting off home yet more delays on the motorway to Prague meant a bit of a rush at the end but fortunately Mad Jan the football mad taxi driver got me to the airport in time for a relaxed wait before boarding. All plain sailing from there, finally arriving home at 01:00, my journey was over and bed beckoned, night night.
Image by VnGrijl, used with permission: https://www.flickr.com/photos/vngrijl/6009296353