Media Room, 2014 ATP World Tour Finals

The third party in any professional tennis match is the person seated in the umpire’s chair. Over the past decade – or at least since Hawk-Eye technology was first officially used in 2006 at the Nasdaq-100 Open (Miami) – the umpire’s role has changed significantly because of the challenge system now in use.

In the past, the umpire was the ultimate arbiter on line calls because he or she was able to over-rule linespersons.

On the final day of the ATP World Tour Finals in London just over two weeks ago (see media room above), yours truly asked 33 journalists, almost all dedicated tennis writers, who they thought was the best umpire.

Mohamed Lahyani

Swedish umpire Mohamed Lahyani was the overwhelming choice – named by 14 of the 33 surveyed.

It should be noted that Lahyani’s renowned showmanship makes him the most high profile of all umpires, and that seemed to sway several writers who didn’t seem to have a strong opinion on the subject. So, he was probably a default choice in many instances.

One reporter said about Lahyani, who emigrated from Morocco when he was one-yearold, “he brings a new dimension” to umpiring.

That new dimension involves some theatrics – too many for certain tastes.

For example, when the score is 15-40 and a server faces two break points, Lahyani will call the score, purposely, something that sounds like “fifteen-FORTY” – with an ominous emphasis on the “FORTY.”

“The voice, it should not be a monotone,” he told writer Elham Asaad Buaras in a 2013 interview. “You have to vary your voice for the stage of the match. You can go up with the tone, down with it”

Many observers, likely including the player who is serving at “fifteen-FORTY,” would disagree with that opinion. Monotone would be the neutral, non-partisan method expected of most umpires.

Lahyani, who famously umpired the 70-68 fifth set Isner-Mahut match at Wimbledon in 2010, is an irrepressibly cheerful individual who almost always has a smile on his face.

That bonhomie can sometimes be carried too far. Unlike most other umpires, he frequently inserts himself between the players in the pre-match photograph taken at the net.

But in the chair, he has an uncannily good eye, and is consistently sharp in over-rules that are usually confirmed by Hawk-Eye.

Regarding the most important quality for an umpire, Lahyani once said, “if you lose a split second of concentration, something will happen. Concentration is number one.”

He has not missed a Wimbledon since 1993 and also umpired the one career meeting between Pete Sampras and Roger Federer – at the All England Club in 2001.

But he’s far from infallible. He missed Milos Raonic touching the net with his foot in that controversial “hypothetically yes, technically no” match with Juan Martin del Potro at the 2013 Rogers Cup in Montreal.

Carlos Bernardes and Roger Federer Mauricio Paiz

 While Lahyani’s name was the one that first came to mind for many writers when they were put on the spot, there were some other choices. Carlos Bernardes, the pleasant-mannered and not overly-ostentatious Brazilian, received five votes.

Three writers who spend a lot of time covering the women’s tour were emphatic in their view that WTA umpire Marija Cicak is the best. Cicak, a Croat, is a gold badge official like Lahyani. The only other female umpire mentioned was Eva Asderaki of Greece.

Kader Nouni

Another person who does mainly women’s matches – the deep-voiced Kader Nouni – was chosen by two journalists.

Opinions varied greatly on the umpires, even if Lahyani seemed to be the popular choice of those questioned. Two people chose Frenchman Pascal Maria, while two others said, “anybody but Pascal Maria.”

It’s not an easy selection to make, but my own personal choice would be Bernardes, because he’s a solid official and has personality without the ego of Lahyani, who I also like.

Here are all the choices with the number of picks for each one:

Mohamed Lahyani – 14

Carlos Bernardes – 5         

Marija Cicak – 3 

Carlos Ramos – 3

Pascal Maria – 2

Kader Nouni – 2

The following all received one vote: Gerry Armstrong (Britain), Asderaki, James Keothavong (Britain) and (retired) Enric Molina (Spain).   


Nick Saviano and Genie Bouchard Mauricio Paiz

With the news last week that Nick Saviano will no longer be Genie Bouchard’s coach in 2015, we thought we’d have a little fun and speculate about who might be his successor for next year.

In considering the many possibilities, it should be noted that, as the No. 7-ranked player in the world, Bouchard is likely to choose someone of some stature and experience. As has been learned from the men’s tour with former stars like Ivan Lendl, Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Michael Chang etc. returning to mentor current players, there’s something about a past champion who has “been there, done that” that can be useful.

But the trouble for Bouchard is that a Chris Evert, with three kids, or a Kim Clijsters with two, is not likely to have the time or inclination to become a full-time coach.

There’s also the financial compensation factor, with a Martina Hingis or Monica Seles probably not attracted by modest sums, and maybe not attracted at all by the thought of dedicating as much time as is required today to coach a top-flight player.

There’s one fewer former champion available with the news on Monday that Anastasia Myskina, the 2004 Roland Garros champion, will be coaching her Russian (and under-achieving?) compatriot Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova next year.

Here are some candidates for Bouchard’s next coach:

MICHAEL JOYCE: Joyce, a Californian and former coach of Bouchard’s role model Maria Sharapova, might be available because his current player (Jessica Pegula, daughter of billionaire Buffalo Sabres and Bills owner Terry Pegula) has not played since last February due to injury and no longer even has a WTA ranking.

Joyce, 41, is feisty enough to handle the strong-willed, demanding Bouchard, having gone through the experience with Sharapova. CHANCES: 18%

NATHALIE TAUZIAT: Tauziat, Wimbledon runner-up in 1998 and a former world No. 3, worked with Bouchard until the end of 2013. She’s a smart woman and seemed to have a good influence on Bouchard but she may be working with French compatriot Caroline Garcia. As well, Tauziat has three children and might not be up to the time commitment required. CHANCES: 11%

WIM FISETTE: The Belgian who worked with Clijsters at different stages of her career, has just been let go by world No. 3 Simona Halep after taking her from No. 11 to No. 3 in 2014. Fisette may be too low-key for Bouchard and might not be inclined to work with a non-European player. CHANCES: 6%

THOMAS HOGSTEDT: The Swede was Sharapova’s coach after Joyce and until Sven Groeneveld took over a year ago. He has also worked with Li Na and Daniela Hantuchova. For the time being, he is committed to Halep as a consultant coach through the Australian Open. But that could change. CHANCES: 5%

SYLVAIN BRUNEAU: The current Canadian Fed Cup captain has always had a good relationship with Bouchard. But he is a new father and has many other Tennis Canada responsibilities, so that would seem to preclude him. CHANCES: 3%

ANTONIO VAN GRICHEN: The 36-year-old Portuguese coached Victoria Azarenka for five years from 2005 to 1010. He has also had stints with Vera Zvonareva, Ana Ivanovic and Jarmila Gajdosova. He worked with Bouchard briefly, but that ended at Wimbledon in 2013. CHANCES: 2%

LARRY STEFANKI: Former coach of a bunch of male players – John McEnroe, Marcelo Rios, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Tim Henman – Stefanki, 57, is highly unlikely to be interested but he represents an older generation of coaches who could possibly be tempted to try their luck with such a promising player. CHANCES: 0.5%

PAUL ANNACONE: Annacone, 51, worked with Sloane Stephens this past year, but didn’t have much success as the 21-year-old American floundered. He has big-name cachet, having worked with Pete Sampras, Tim Henman and Roger Federer, but is he interested in another young women’s prospect? CHANCES: 2.5%

MARION BARTOLI: Possessing one of the best tennis intellects among former women players, Bartoli, 30 and single, might be ripe for the challenge of a talented young player. On the other hand, just a little over a year removed from the tour, she might not be too anxious to make what is close to a full-time commitment to travel etc. CHANCES: 4%

OTHER: There are no obvious Canadian options, although the late Rene Simpson, a gritty, savvy competitor, would have been an interesting candidate.

There might be a former pro, male or female, especially someone younger than 40, whom we are not aware of who could be a good fit. CHANCES: 48%    


Mauricio Paiz

Genie Bouchard and Milos Raonic are being considered for the annual Lou Marsh trophy awarded to Canada’s top athlete. In a winter Olympics year, Bouchard and Raonic will be up against some stiff competition from several gold medal winners, including hockey players Sidney Crosby and Drew Doughty. Baseball batting champion Justin Morneau is also in the running. The voting will take place on December 10.

BTW – here’s Raonic’s appearance at the Canadian Club in Toronto last Wednesday after being named its ‘Canadian of the Year.’



Mavericks team selfie

Daniel Nestor (back right above) is playing for the Manila Mavericks of the new International Premier Tennis League.

The IPTL has attracted some big-name players such as Serena Williams, Andy Murray, Ana Ivanovic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Andre Agassi. But those big names only play a few times and leave most of the grinding action of league – which runs from November 30 to December 13 in four Asian countries (Philippines, India, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates) – to the ‘spear-carriers.’

Nestor would qualify for that category. When the Mavericks beat the Singapore Slammers 27-19 on Sunday, he didn’t get into the action as Tsonga and Filipino player/coach Treat Huey played the men’s doubles and Murray and Kirsten Flipkens combined in the mixed.

Nestor did get an emergency call on Saturday when the Mavericks played the Micromax Indian Aces. One of the five match-ups is the called the ‘past champions’ singles. When Maverick ‘past champion’ Carlos Moya had to retire mid-set against Fabrice Santoro, Nestor took over but the Moya/Nestor combination still lost 6-1 to the double-handed wizardry of the Frenchman. Nestor, 42, is actually older than the two past champions – Moya is 38 while Santoro is 41.

Maria Sharapova played just two singles matches for the Mavericks – beating Kristina Mladenovic (substituting for the injured Genie Bouchard) of the UAE Royals 6-5 and losing 6-3 to Ivanovic of the Micromax Indian Aces.

“It was a great experience coming here to Manila,” Sharapova said, “and it was great to be part of such great energy on the court, despite the team losing both days. I felt that all of us had a good time. My favourite thing about the IPTL is the team atmosphere.”




This is not the kind of incident anyone wants to read about, and few people will be able to understand it as written here. But at least the face of the father is visible and the story serves as a cautionary tale about things not being exactly as they appear.

Andrada Ioana Surdeanu is 16 years old and will turn 17 on January 1, 2015.

Her record for the current year in ITF junior tennis is 20-16 and her combined (singles and doubles) ranking is No. 258.


So much fun with the ladies @anaivanovic @dhantuchova #iptl Ana stick to tennis. I would miss u!

A photo posted by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) on


Don’t expect to see this ‘flight attendant’ on one of your flights anytime soon!