Article by: Mustapha Jamal
Another one off the bucket list. Thank you, Tennis Canada officiating! For me the Australian Open 2018 or AO as it is called, was truly an experience of a lifetime.
The camaraderie between the officials reminded me of the officials here is Canada. In fact, the city of Melbourne topographically bears an uncanny resemblance to Toronto, Ontario. The big difference though, for someone who is a sucker for hot weather, summer… in January.
The ‘Happy Slam’ truly is such. I couldn’t count on two hands the amount of times I heard, “no worries mate” or “you’re alright”. They take great pride and ownership in being the ‘Happy Slam’ and any complaining is frowned upon.
All of the above truly made the AO of the most relaxing tournaments I have ever been to. From personal experience at the AO, I have gathered that staying relaxed off the courts translates to success on the court as well. This allowed me to have confidence in my technique and focus on creating the best possible image of myself on the court.
If anyone gets a chance to visit or work the AO, the best advice I can give is, observe everything around you, not just the line umpires. Watch the chair umpires, the chief of officials, the assistant chiefs, the ball kids, the grounds staff, and all the administrative staff. There is something to learn from each one of them that will undoubtedly make us better officials, maybe not directly or immediately, but eventually and undoubtedly.
The stadiums, the spectators and the players are some of the perks of working at a major tournament like the AO but it doesn’t end there. The uniforms, the food and especially the accommodation are also exceptional and exceptionally organized. The AO is one of the few if not the only series of tournaments where the rooms are essentially studio apartments with all the amenities of a fully functioning residence complimented by the services of a hotel. I chose the residence along dock as my choice for accommodation and it was amazing.
Everything aside, the most important thing about travelling to these tournaments, for me, is to make friends because as my tournament journey comes to an end I know that I will see these people again, somewhere around the world at some other tournament, in some other country. This way there is a little bit of home wherever I travel.
I am unbelievably grateful for the opportunity I have received to be happy and to live my dream at the AO to be the representative of Canadian officiating. It is an honour that will never be dismissed.