AN ARBROATH man is left with memories he will cherish forever after being one of the line umpires for the exciting men’s final at Wimbledon on Sunday between Andy Murray and Roger Federer.
And the experience was all the more memorable for Marc Ritchie, Hillend Road, as it was his first final since reaching the top umpire grade in January.
Marc takes up the story: “On Friday morning I reported as usual to the officials’ buttery in order to see what court I was going to be line-umpiring on for the day, and who was my team leader. I was tapped on the shoulder by one of my colleagues who informed me I should go to the other noticeboard as there was good news awaiting me.
“I was intrigued by this and when I got to the other noticeboard I discovered it was the list of line umpires for the ladies’ and men’s singles finals. On looking down the list I found my name written against the men’s singles final.
“I was so surprised, as I never expected to be selected to umpire on a final let alone the men’s singles final with Andy Murray, the first British player to make the men’s singles final since 1936. This was also my first ever final since reaching the top line umpire grade in January that made me eligible to be selected for finals at Wimbledon.”
He went on: “I was on court one on the Saturday for the first time in my tennis umpiring career and it was a fantastic experience before the big day on Sunday.
“The night before I prepared my newly dry-cleaned shirt and trousers, laid them out for the finals day and made sure I had everything I needed to avoid any quick sprints back to my accommodation in the morning.
“When I reported to my team leader on the Sunday, I was told I was going to be on the right centre service line for the men’s final, which was the television camera end - even more pressure! My team was on second in the final, and rotating with the other team one hour on, one hour off. Even an hour in the final can go very quickly.
“After a quick message from the chair umpire Enrique Molina to give us some encouragement, we lined up outside the doors for the entrance to centre court. I have never felt my heart beat as fast as it did before going on the final, yet I could not help feeling so proud that I would be stepping on centre court to be part of a historic final.”
Marc continued: “From the moment ‘time’ was called by the chair umpire, and when the crowd starting cheering, it was the greatest moment of my life that I will remember for a very long time. During the match, every single line umpire was very busy making lots of close calls and some ‘Hawkeye’ challenges happening.
“To have one of the best seats in the house where after the centre serve I then go into the ‘at ease’ position with the hands behind my back was an experience that I was so privileged to get.”
He concluded: “Unfortunately the match finished before we were due to return for our third session, and it was then on to the mixed doubles final where I was on left far side (furthest from the chair umpire).
“The match eventually finished at 9.05 p.m. and I was presented with a framed certificate for being part of the men’s final. After emptying my locker I left the Wimbledon grounds for the last time.”
“It was my first time in doing all 13 days, but when leaving the grounds it was a strange feeling and I was sad that the two weeks had gone so quickly. However it was the best fortnight I had ever had and I have so many happy memories I will cherish for the rest of my life.”