(Editors note - delay in publishing this report has been caused by problems with the website - apologies)
In only his 2nd International event, Pradip Songara reports from Glorious Glasgow !
Having received nomination for the Scottish Open, immediately after my return from the Les Alpes U19 International, I was buzzing to be allowed another international opportunity in such a short space of time since my first! In addition, the event organisers were generous to offer a further 6 English umpires the opportunity to attend the event: Elizabeth Alam, Alan Crow, Ted Edwards, Angela McGough, Swapnil Gadkari and Vicki Hatton. Furthermore, we were fortunate to have Allan Potter attend as an umpire assessor.
My travel arrangement from Luton to Glasgow was simple to organise since the majority of Covid-19 travel restrictions had been lifted and the number of flights from Luton Airport increased in October. Since the umpires briefing was scheduled a day before the event (at 7pm), I arrived at Glasgow Airport at 10am, where I was collected by two ladies dressed in kilts. We convened with other event staff who were awaiting shuttle (arranged by event organisers) had also arrived at the airport, after which I shared a shuttle with 2-line judges to our hotel. Since I had arrived early, I was fortunate to take advantage of the whole day after checking-in and dropping my luggage off. I walked to a nearby station and made my way into the town centre to explore Glasgow a little further (George Square and a walk along the river Clyde). As the evening drew nearer, I made my way back to the hotel, to be greeted by fellow umpires from England arriving by various modes of transport (air, train or car) after which we were shuttled to the Emirates area, which would be our home for the rest of the week. Here the socially distanced officials briefing was conducted by Stephen Temple (Referee) and his colleagues. In addition to the umpires from England, the event had umpires from Denmark, Norway, Germany, Netherlands and Scotland. Following our accreditation, we were given a tour of the arena after which were updated on changes to the electronic scorepad, which requires umpires to time each rally. Umpires were placed into one of three groups, which were to be adhered till quarterfinals, this meant that each group were working one of three shifts (morning, afternoon or evening). Luckily, I was placed on the same shift for the two days (morning and afternoon), whereas many umpires has different shifts throughout the week. Concluding this, we were taken back to our hotel after which a few of us (hungry) umpires made our way to a nearby Wetherspoons for a late dinner and a few pints.
On the following morning I made my way down to the hotel restaurant for our daily breakfast, after which we were shuttled to the arena for our first day of duty. The event started off with singles at 9 am with 5 courts at our disposal. We were fortunate to see different international players in performance over the course of the week, which was a nice change since the current Covid regulations had prevented many players from attending international tournament, also the event was open to the public, which greatly contributed and improved the atmosphere in the arena, making it a more enjoyable and rewarding experience to umpire. Furthermore, many of us were able to obtain feedback from Allan (Potter), which I found useful since we could attempt to put these tips into practice over the week. As the day progressed, the matches began to get more competitive and the clear determination of the players to win became more apparent. I was able to umpire and service judge some fantastic matches, including a couple adrenalin filled men’s doubles matches. Our evenings were typically varied since many of the umpires were on different shifts. At the event, we were provided lunch and dinner at the arena. Many umpires (and sometimes line judges) reconvened at the hotel bar in the evening for a drink or two before returning to their bedrooms. In particular, on Friday evening, a small group of us were taken to a nearby Italian restaurant (Little Italy) by a fellow umpire, Elaine, which served fantastic pizzas and tiramisu. During this period the weather conditions had began to deteriorate due to storm Arwen, which resulted in a substantial temperature drop (leading to snow in parts of Scotland and northern England) and high-speed winds.
Though the first two days were tiring and long since the umpires on duty were constantly in demand, each match was a rewarding experience and fantastic organisation by the event staff made the event thoroughly enjoyable. Luckily, we were provided with a refreshment station, which provided a much needed coffee or tea as the day progressed. As the tournament progressed, we entered the quarterfinals (4 courts) and semi-finals (2 courts), the arena underwent transformations to reduce the number of courts, during which there was a prolonged gap, which allowed a few of us umpires to explore the surrounding area. The sharp wind chills and strong winds saw us scrambling from the arena for a hot drink before making our way back via Celtic Park stadium and Sir Chris Hoy velodrome.
On finals day, after breakfast many umpires (including myself) checked out of the hotel and were taken to the arena. Though I was not required for duty, I was given a chance to watch some of the fantastic finals matches. Since there was a Celtic home match in the stadium next door, I decided to leave a few hours earlier to avoid the expected heavy traffic from the football fans departing which coincided with my original shuttle time to the airport. Unfortunately, due to storm Arwen, many English umpires struggled with their return journeys since train services were cancelled. Fortunately, I was able to get a rather delayed return flight to Luton.
Overall, I found this event a fantastic opportunity to work alongside experienced umpires and further myself as an umpire. My positive experiences with all the technical officials, tournament organisers and event staff are greatly appreciated.