Tom Barnes-Enjoying Tennis: The Game and The Rules
NorCal Staff | May 1, 2017
Becoming an umpire was a natural fit. While playing junior tennis in Southern California, Tom explains, “in those days, as soon as you lost in a sanctioned tennis tournament, you had to umpire. I got more experience umpiring than playing tennis!”
Tom began his life in tennis simply enough. His mother, an avid player, cut the handle off an old tennis racket and he began swinging, as they say. Born in Oxnard, California, he played junior tennis while attending Santa Clara High School in Southern California. Right after graduating in 1964, his parents relocated to Sacramento. Tom attended Sacramento City College for a year before transferring to UC Berkeley. After graduating from Cal in 1969, Tom joined the Marines.
Tom continued to play recreationally while in the Corps. After the Corps., he entered a tournament for 35s in Tiberon. ADVERTISEMENT “I called the club to get the schedule. They gave me a time, but it didn’t sound right to me. So, I called the next day and talked to someone else. But they gave me the same information. I figured, what do I know? So, I show up and the referee says ‘Barnes, where’ve you been? You were supposed to be here this morning!’ I obviously got the wrong information.” He was scheduled for two matches but was only given information for the second match; the tournament had to default him. “I started explaining my thoughts about tennis officiating at that point and the ref challenged me. He said, ‘if you’re so good, sit over on that baseline and call that ball.’” That was 1978 and Tom realized he liked officiating. By 1979, Tom earned his Certified USTA Linesman status from the Men’s International Professional Tennis Council (MIPTC).
In 1980, and for the next four years, Tom worked as the Assistant Executive Director for the Northern California Tennis Association (NCTA) where he managed the tournaments and worked with the Juniors. “I still run in to some of those kids, now all grown up of course, in my travels,” he said. “I’d like to think I had some influence on them. I’m pretty much black and white when it comes to the rules and their applications. When the kids were growing up and I oversaw Juniors, they learned we adhered to those rules. If they were late, they were defaulted. If they misbehaved, they had to suffer the consequences.” He said he is proud of the players he oversaw, managed and worked with during his NCTA days.
He worked with Peter Herb, who served as USTA NorCal Executive Director for 40 years. Peter was also certified by the MIPTC. “There were only about 20 of us in the world, and here two of us were in the same office. That was certainly cool,” Tom said. In 1983, Tom attended the MIPTC School in Boston to become internationally certified as a referee, as well. “I became one of a very small number certified by the MIPTC as a Referee, Chair Umpire and Chief Umpire.”
Shortly after his certification, Tom accepted a position as the General Manager for the Sierra Sport & Racquet Club in Fresno in 1984. He served the club for ten years. While there, he also began contracting with the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) in 1990. He served as a U.S. Open Referee in 1991 and 1992. By 1994, he took a role as full-time Supervisor for the ATP Tour.
Two tournaments stand out to Barnes. “I’ve been going to Indian Wells, it was one of my first pro tournament outside of NorCal, since 1981 and it’s also the first tournament where I was a Chair Umpire in a professional match. Since that time, I’ve only missed the tournament three or four times. I’ve worked as a linesman, a Chair Umpire, assistant to the Referee, the Referee to the ATP Supervisor.”
In addition, he is proud of his role at Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell which he worked since 1998, where he served as the ATP Supervisor. “The Supervisor puts on a dinner for the staff and officials. I always gave a speech in Spanish. Now they are part of Catalonia, I must give the speech in Catalan. I know what I’m trying to say. I’m not sure what I actually say, but they all appreciate the effort.”
“I see tennis every day in my job,” Tom said. He works as many as 23 tournaments throughout the year in the U.S., Europe and Asia. As supervisor, he oversees the competition, acts as the final onsite authority, makes sure all participants—tournament officials and players—comply with all ATP rules and regulations. "The players look to us to ensure that all are treated equally whether they are a top-rated player or one of the up-and-comers,” he said.