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Minor Leagues of Tennis a Proving Ground for Officials as Well as Players; USTA and ITF looking to improve officiating at all levels
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Known mainly for his booming voice over a Stadium Court microphone and his laid back demeanor, chair umpire Jake Garner is the face of tennis officiating here in the United States.

Jake Garner at the Tennis Classic of Macon in Georgia
courtesy, Rick Limpert
Garner, a "Gold Badge Chair Umpire", has chaired numerous U.S. Open finals, including the 2013 final between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

But in late October, Garner found himself in Macon, Georgia, of all places, at the USTA Pro Circuit's Tennis Classic of Macon, a 50K women's pro event that is one of the events that helps wrap up the season on the USTA Pro Circuit.

Garner wasn't serving as a chair umpire for this minor league professional event. He was onsite at the Jaime Kaplan Tennis Center at Stratford Academy in Macon, observing and scouting the officials that were working, and this is good news for tennis players of all levels.

"I'm here because with the new leadership in the USTA officiating division, we are trying to get more help out to chair umpires mainly," stated Garner, in a rare sit down interview. "So we started a program of sending some experienced chair umpires - some retired, some still active like I am - to Circuit level events to watch them and and give (officials) feedback and tips that are not only helping the officials, but also helping us determine where they are as a whole when it comes to officiating in this country."

This all begs the next question.

Is there a problem with tennis officiating in the U.S.?

"It wasn't that there were any problems," adds Garner. "We have a lot of good officials that work at the circuit events, but we have so many events, and we need good officials. If there were problems, the events would be in more trouble than they are."

Garner said the reason he was in Macon and not at home in Tallahassee, Fla., was primarily education.

"We want to continue to educate [officials], maybe better than we did in the past. We want to increase the level of officiating at all USTA events. There was a feeling among officials that they were out here on their own, trying to figure things out. We want to give them more support and continuing education, but at some point that ends. I'm here to give them advice and help them improve."

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Page updated on Monday, March 11, 2019
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