Silence is made, the balls are fired, exchanges are prolonged, the audience holds its breath and suddenly the announcement: “OUT”! The concentration falls a few moments, waiting for the next service. At 13 and 14, Achille and Thibault are the two youngest referees of the Master’U. They carry on their shoulders the official parka of the event and the responsibility of the function of line judge. With pleasure as always.
Achilles has eyes that shine: “It is fortunate to be able to rub shoulders with players,” he exclaims. For health reasons, he can no longer play. He turned to his club to pass the referee training. Thibault continues to play tennis. Conscious that despite his passion, he has very little chance of becoming a professional player, he first went through the box of bullets: “I saw the referees and I wanted to do like them. Today, positions have been reversed. ”
Leave the racket for the chair
Their young age may be misleading, but both of them already have experience. They made their debut at the interclubs of Lille: “I made my first chair there. It is very impressive. “Thibault even had the chance to referee Benoît Paire’s match in Lille. But never on such an event: “We put a little more pressure because with as much public, nobody wants to disappoint. “Achilles is already very comfortable:” The first exchanges are always sources of stress, but in the course of the games it is better. ”
Like the other forty referees, they are supervised by Pascal Maria, referee of the tournament, a size of international arbitration with notably 9 Davis Cup finals under his belt, including the thrilling Croatia-Argentina, which finished Sunday, November 27 by the victory of the South Americans. Pascal Maria, like Thibault and Achille, also began to arbitrate very young, at 14 years. It is therefore very well placed to offer advice to both boys. The message is straightforward: “Have fun and do not panic if you make a mistake. ”
The error of appreciation of the ball is precisely what the two budding arbiters fear: “The worst that can happen to us is when the chair umpire changes our decision. It puts a stroke of pressure. Thibault knows that we must above all de-dramatize: “It becomes problematic if it is too repetitive, then we must question ourselves. Meanwhile, he continues to scrutinize the white lines on the lookout for the flying bullets.