Eyes on the line
By Amit Kumar Das
Odense, Oct 21 (PTI) More than half of his life Martin Etheridge has spent watching the lines.
Sometimes he was responsible for indicating where a shuttle landed on a badminton court, at other times it was about following shots at full speed and deciding whether each was in or out of the tennis court.
In a career spanning more than three decades, Etheridge has officiated in tennis, badminton and football, also has some experience in athletics and ice hockey.
"I started when I was 16 and for 38 years, I have been a football referee, it was at semi professional level. I was linesman in an international friendly between England and France. Now I'm involved in the development role. In badminton and tennis I did at a higher level," Etheridge, who is here as a lines judge at the Denmark Super Series Premier, told PTI.
"I have been officiating in tennis for 25 years and now seven years I have been a lines judge in badminton. I couldn't give time to athletics. I was just a starter in athletics. I did for two years around 20 years ago. I also did ice hockey for three years."
Etheridge was the line judge at the Glasgow World Championship final between Viktor Axelsen and Lin Dan in August. He has also been officiating in All England for six years as a line judge. While in tennis, Martin has officiated at over 24 Wimbledon Championships as a line judge and umpire, which includes a men's semifinal match involving Roger Federer.
He has umpired over 130 Davis and Fed Cups around the globe, including in countries like Uganda, Mexico, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Syria and Tobago.
He had also travelled to India during the 2010 Commonwealth Games to officiate in a tennis match as a line judge. He has officiated in no less than 105 countries from Armenia to Zambia for national team competitions.
"I have also umpired Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe in senior tournaments in 2008. I have also been on court with Vijay Amritraj. I have been to Buckingham Palace in 2000, they had a world charity tournament where there was Borg, McEnroe, Anna Kournikova," he said.
53-year-old Etheridge also tried to get his name at the Guinness Book of world record and though he faced rejection it didn't demotivate him.
"At the moment there is no record for the number of countries officiated. So in May this year I put in a bid to create a new record so that I can submit my evidence. But they said no, they said it didn't meet their criteria. My record was going to be number of different countries officiated in any sports," he said.
Etheridge also enjoys officiating in wheelchair tennis and involving players with visual impairment and learning disabilities. He loves going to countries like Estonia and Finland were there are no line judges association to train the locals.
"I wish I could have started earlier, I could have by now officiated at higher level. BWF also have age limit. I would want to go to Olympics or Paralympics. It wouldn't be in football for sure but may be tennis or badminton," Etheridge, who will leave for Switzerland for wheelchair tennis next week, said