Was That Out? No, It’s Justin

A much needed day off for the players and officials, including a Manchester tennis fan who might one day make it to the Wimbledon final.
It’s game set and match for aptly-named line umpire Justin Latham. He is working here after an invitation which came out of the blue.
Former tennis player Justin, 34, a business analyst who had no previous experience of officiating, could have been forgiven for exclaiming: “You cannot be serious?”

A letter from the Lawn Tennis Association bounced on his doormat last December because he had played in local leagues and was still on their database.
“I was amazed,” recalls Justin. “It asked me if I was interested in going along to a line umpire seminar, with the carrot that if I was up to standard, there was the potential to do some line umpiring at Wimbledon.”
Which is how, after a spell of training and calling the lines at other events, former Wimbledon spectator Justin, from Prestwich, finds himself on court among the 335 line umpires and chair umpires at SW19.
Taking a break from his job with the Co-op, he has been on duty this week, calling the lines on the outside courts next to Centre Court, where he could end up in future years if he makes the grade.
After a day one washout, Justin stepped on to the All England Club grass for the first time on Tuesday. “There were a few nerves because the crowds are so close. That’s when you feel a bit of pressure. But I’m thoroughly enjoying it. It’s something different that not many people get a chance to do.
“I’ve been here several times before to watch, so this is an opportunity to get to see the event from a different angle, on the inside.”

He’s on call from start of play at noon until the close, which can be after 9pm. “It’s quite tough when it’s getting darker. You really do have to concentrate.”
It’s also hot work out on court where temperatures hit 31C yesterday. A ball girl felt faint on Friday, following on from a line umpire who actually did faint earlier in the week.
But reports of a fashion crisis among Wimbledon officials landed just slightly wide of the line, even though a few of their tailor-made trousers have split on court.
Justin says the general view among his colleagues is that the new navy blue and cream outfits, designed by Ralph Lauren, are an improvement – although the cream flat caps are optional.
He’s also thinking about taking up the game again, having once played regularly at both Lytham Tennis Club and the David Lloyd Club in Manchester. “I hadn’t really missed the tennis until I got close to it again.”
His wife Alex was at Wimbledon yesterday to see her husband’s net gains. But would there be any dispute about his calls? “She plays a little tennis, but I don’t think she’s in a position to overrule me…on tennis, anyway,” he laughs.
Click here for more information about how to become a tennis line or chair umpire.