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WTA Tennis




Cumming & Goings V by Jim Cummings

June 5, 2006 09:16 AM

C & G

It is hard to believe that nowhere in Friend At Court (FAC), USTA's Handbook of Tennis Rules and Regulations, is the word  "safety" mentioned. You won't find it in FAC under the duties of tournament directors, nor will you find it under the duties  of a referee. When I am the director or referee for a tournament, I consider safety of play one of my primary  responsibilities. What is more important; especially for junior tournaments?
I thought for sure safety would be addressed in the 2006 edition of FAC because in 2005, USTA published emergency care  guidelines for tournament directors. It contained 3 pages of how to prepare for and what to do in the event of medical emergencies plus a heat index chart. Included in the 3 pages was a segment on action to be taken in the event of lightning. Lightning is something a referee should handle (Tournament Regulation I.M.7 "Suspends and postpones matches"), yet, to now, it  is not on the national training agenda nor, as mentioned, is there a reference to it in FAC. It did not happen in 2006, but it has to happen, and the sooner, the better. The left hand cannot ignore what the right is doing.
The heat index chart is something akin to the wind chill factor in reverse. Environmental temperature coupled with relative humidity produces apparent temperature - the body's sensation of heat caused by the two. Heat stroke is possible at an apparent temperature of 105 degrees. Heat stroke is likely at 130 degrees. Seventy percent humidity on a 90 degree day produces an apparent temperature of 106 degrees. Eighty percent humidity on a 95 degree day produces a 136 degree apparent temperature. Does that sound like some of the days in July and August, even North of Green Bay? Although the publication talks about drinking plenty of fluid and what to do if a player is hit by heat, it does not talk about measures to minimize exposure to it, such as playing Match Tie-Breaks in lieu of third sets, shortening sets by starting all sets at 2 all or establishing a rest period after the first set. Then again, that is where the referee comes in and the publication is directed at tournament directors. But FAC is silent when it comes to heat. It is silent when it comes to lightning. It is silent when it comes to safety, period.

Friend At Court cannot remain that way.

By:  Jim Cummings 06/04/2006

Jim Cummings Bio:
   Born in Marinette, WI
   Boyhood friend of the Cook family
   Played varsity tennis for UW-Madison in the 50s
   Officiated at over 25 US Opens as a chair and line umpire
   Served on USTA's Rules Committee when Jack Stahr and Nick Powel were Chairs
   Active senior player and Referee
   Presently helps edit the Friend At Court