AS the nation cheers on British hopeful Andy Murray at Wimbledon today, meet the North East umpire who could be calling the shots.
While most people probably haven’t heard of Alison Lang, the likes of Roger Federer, Venus Williams, Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova all know who she is.
This is because the 37-year-old, who took charge yesterday as Serena Williams eased into the final after a challenging battle against Petra Kvitova, is one of the most respected umpires on the tennis circuit.
In her teens Lang was more than a half-decent tennis player herself, good enough to represent Northumberland at Under-18s level.
But it wasn’t until 1991 that she first tried her luck at officiating, “calling the lines” at junior matches across the North East. Two years later she made her debut on the grass at Wimbledon. Two years ago tennis bosses chose the Newcastle umpire as the Lawn Tennis Association’s Official of the Year. Lang fought off competition from a field of hundreds to scoop the title, one of seven awarded annually by the LTA in recognition of outstanding service to the game.
She has long been regarded as one of the top umpires in the world having taken charge in Grand Slam events, the 2004 Olympics in Athens as well as Beijing 2008, and the Federation Cup.
Career highlights include umpiring three Ladies Singles Finals at Wimbledon, two Women’s Singles Finals at the Australian Open, two Women’s Singles Finals at the US Open along with several Fed Cup Finals. Lang was in the chair for 2006’s Wimbledon women’s final between Amelie Mauresmo and Justine Henin, the second of her career at the All England Club. At the time Lang said: “Being selected by the LTA for this award is something I regard as a huge honour as there are so many good officials. So much of being an umpire and an official is about trying to take the backstage rather than being in the limelight, so it is rather strange seeing your name in lights.”
Lang, who now lives in Warsash, in Hampshire, received her award during a special close of play reception at Wimbledon attended by LTA officials and players. “But there’s no way I’ll be celebrating too hard,” she told The Journal when she won. “I’ve got to be on court tomorrow so I think I’ll stick to the orange juice.”