MAKING THE CALLS:
Officials at the 2019 US Open
Victoria Chiesa | September 16, 2019
For most tennis players, the road to Flushing Meadows begins in the summer during the US Open Series. For the officials, it starts in the North American winter.
The application process to be a US Open umpire, overseen by the USTA Officiating Department, opens in mid-February and closes in early March. This year, nearly 900 umpire applications were received for the 2019 US Open, and a total of 347 on-court officials earned selection to the 51st edition of the final Grand Slam on the tennis calendar this year.
Two-thirds of them came from the United States, with 38 countries represented in all. Twenty-seven line umpires from around the world were selected for their first Open in 2019.
Off the court, 28 individuals worked as Electronic Review Officials, assisting with Hawk-Eye, along with four field staff officials, who prepare the line umpire crews for their hour-long rotations, and six technical advisors, who provide coaching and performance feedback to line umpires.ADVERTISEMENT
For second-year US Open umpire Chase Urban, the opportunity to be mentored by more experienced officials from around the world proved invaluable. Just over a year after becoming a USTA certified official, Urban, a Floridian, was the recipient of the USTA’s annual Jack Stahr Award—presented to an official in his or her first three Opens who demonstrates great potential.
Having earned a developmental slot, reserved for newer officials that show promise, Urban called lines during the 2018 tournament. Over the course of the next year, he worked on his craft and was selected again for the 2019 tournament.
As a result of his work during the event, Urban earned a spot as a line umpire to work the women’s singles final. In addition, he chaired his first US Open matches during the early rounds of the junior tournament. This progress is the product of the USTA’s education and training pipeline.
“Last year, in March, I was at a tournament, and I decided, ‘Hey, I think I could do that,’” Urban said.
“Being here, I can’t put it into words. It’s one of the biggest stages in tennis… and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to be here, to learn and get better.”
With their days beginning early in the morning inside Louis Armstrong Stadium and ending late in the evening, three weeks of hard work ultimately culminated with 82 officials working 11 championship matches across all of the tournament’s events on the final Sunday.
Some of the men and women in blue uniforms also excelled after having worn another one. This year, Open officials also counted a dozen veterans of United States military branches among their ranks.
On Labor Day, they had the opportunity to meet with Vice Admiral Sean S. Buck, the 63rd Superintendent of the United States Naval Academy, at the Open’s annual umpire recognition ceremony, held on the tournament’s newly-christened Lt. Joe Hunt US Open Military Appreciation Day.
“I shared with them that I thought it’s a fairly easy transition from your military uniform to umpiring at a professional tennis tournament,” Buck said. “What they’re charged with is maintaining the standards, the ethics and the conduct of the sport… and it’s pretty special, but pretty easy for them to transition into that role.
“It’s really gratifying to see them take the skills that they learned in their military service into something else which they love as much as serving their country. They love the sport of tennis.”
For more information about USTA Officiating, click here.