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Christianson holds court at ITF Seniors World Championships

February 3, 2012 11:51 AM
As head umpire honcho, Bob Christianson will be in charge of placing officials on 83 different courts in seven different venues like the Balboa Tennis Club (pictured).
By Jerry Magee, special to USTA.com
SAN DIEGO -- At the ITF Senior World Championships, longtime Southern California tennis official Bob Christianson is the chief judge. His charge: Assembling the dozens of linespersons necessary to work a two-week tournament, played on 83 courts at seven venues in San Diego County. His is a time-consuming endeavor. 
During a recent trek halfway around the world – an annual visit to Vietnam, where Christianson motorcycles through the country - he would park the bike each evening and click onto his laptop. In his e-mail would be frequent messages from William J. Kellogg, Tournament Director. The two had much to discuss. The ITF's rules, it seems, differ in a number of respects from the rules of other sanctioning bodies. Most importantly, there was the question if Christianson would be able to come up with the number of officials required for a tournament of this scope.
"It affected my trip," Christianson says. "I didn't feel I could be away from my computer for more than a few days, and I didn't want to take a computer on a motorcycle."
Christianson says he has worked harder on the ITF Seniors than he has on any of the other 29 events in which he has supervisory roles. 
"I told Bill that it was just last week that I started to look forward to this rather than being fearful of it," Christianson says. "At first, I admitted to him that I was very nervous because it's a unique experience. It's umpire averse, put it that way."
Many officials were reluctant to commit to working the ITF Seniors because of "conflicts with other tennis events," according to Christianson. Though the ITF Seniors does not have a travel budget for officials, he collected his cadre - made up largely of persons from Southern California, the group also includes officials from Pennsylvania, Florida and Virginia.
"Normally, I get 80 percent of whomever I want," he says. "This time, I got only one of five. I took it personally, until I understood that I would act the same way."
Christianson cited some of the ways in which the ITF's rules are its alone. 
Some examples: Should a player begin bleeding, the USTA permits him or her a timeout of 15 minutes before ordering a resumption of play. The ITF allows for only five minutes.
For a player who is judged to have misbehaved, the USTA and college tennis follow a punitive order of a point, a game, an finally a possible default. The ITF is more forgiving, adding a warning before docking points.
The ITF's standard is that a foot fault cannot be called through a fence. The caller must be at the net post.
"And that's only three," Christianson says. "There are about 50 of those."
Ready, play.


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