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CONTRARY to popular belief, it is not just the Murray brothers, Elena Baltacha and Colin Fleming who have been the only Scots involved in the action at the Australian Open this year.
Umpire Lucy Grant, from Grantown on Spey in the Highlands, has returned to Melbourne this week for the eighth time and is taking charge of some top matches after being promoted to a Silver Badge Chair Umpire by the International Tennis Federation last month.
The Silver Badge status means that Lucy is qualified to umpire any match in the world apart from a Grand Slam singles final or a Davis Cup Final. “It was so satisfying to attain the Silver Badge”, said Lucy.
“After working towards something like this for so many years, it was an amazing feeling being awarded it. All the hard work had paid off and it means I will always now be a chair umpire as opposed to being on the lines.”
The 27-year-old’s officiating career began when she was a young player aged 16 after the LTA approached Scottish competitors asking them if they would like to try and be an official.
After attending selection and training days, Lucy was chosen to officiate at Wimbledon just a year later. Since then she has never looked back, officiating at matches all over the world for the WTA tour including grand slams.
One of her career highlights though was in Delhi at the Commonwealth Games last October when she took charge of the Ladies Singles gold medal match between local hope Sania Mirza and Australia’s Anastasia Rodionova. “I was so nervous and knew it would make or break my career”, she said.
“The crowd were wild for the Indian player [Mirza] and controlling them was tough. Luckily I did a good job.”
Lucy has returned to Melbourne armed with more experience and of course the confidence from being promoted to a Silver Badge umpire. The Australian Open is a favourite of hers and she hopes it will be the start of a year which will help take her closer to her future ambitions.
“I love coming to the Australian Open as people are so friendly and I feel at home,” said Lucy. “The weather is of course usually better than at home and Melbourne itself is a really chilled out and cool city to spend time in.
“This year I will aim to do higher level matches on bigger courts and work on getting used to the crowds and the pressures that come from them. Who knows what the future will hold, but I hope to continue umpiring for some years to come and I hope to be selected for the London Olympics in 2012.”
Impartiality is of course a key rule of umpiring, but it doesn’t stop Lucy gaining satisfaction from the success of Scottish tennis in recent years. “Tennis has always been a popular sport in Scotland and is rich with history,” she said.
“It is good to have Andy Murray raise the profile of the sport but we also have other Scots doing well such as Fleming and Baltacha. Scottish tennis is leading the way and this is lovely to see.”