History was made this week Sofia open.
For the first time, an all-female chair umpire team has been assigned to an ATP Tour event. In addition, the ATP supervisor, tournament director, referee and chief referee in Sofia are also female. Tournament Director Kay Godkhindi explained why this is an exciting aspect of the event.
“To be honest we weren’t aware of that as it all happened organically for us. The tournament team was built from people who just love what they do,” said Godkhindi. “I’ve been involved in organizing both men’s and women’s events and while they both have their unique requirements, at the end of the day it’s the same thing – making sure all the balls stay in the air, everyone is happy and that We continue to strive to deliver the best tournament.
“We’re a small part of a larger movement where your gender doesn’t define your ability, but to have equal opportunities in both the ATP and WTA is great and empowering women whenever possible is always a step in the right direction. It is fantastic that the ATP is committed to this by hiring ATP supervisors and chair umpires.”
Sofia Open tournament team and officiating crew.” />
Photo credit: Lap.bg
As many male-dominated sports begin to add female officials to their rosters, tennis has had several prominent female officials — including those overseeing men’s games — dating back several decades.
One of these officials is Anne Lasserre, the ATP Supervisor for the ATP 250 in Sofia. Lasserre is the first woman to take on this special role.
“I think it’s also an honor to be the first woman. I worked as a chair umpire for the ATP a long time ago,” Lasserre said. “I think things and the situation are evolving, which I think is a good thing. It’s an honour, I’m proud of it…
“It’s good to think about the future and break that glass ceiling and give other women the opportunity to do the same work that we do in any sport.”
One of the chair umpires in Sofia, Aurelie Tourte, added that it was “a great feeling” to have a tournament run by female officials.
“I think that’s a great idea from the ATP. It just goes to show that at the end of the day, gender doesn’t matter,” Tourte said. “If you’re a woman or a man, what matters is that you’re a good official, a chair umpire, and that’s what we’re trying to show this week. On the other hand, I would say that if this goes unnoticed, it feels even better that at some point it will be common to have women in the ATP tournaments.”
Tourte became the ATP’s first full-time referee in 2019. She believes that an event with a female referee team is important not only for the officials involved but also for future generations.
“I think it’s good for the young officials to motivate themselves and see that it’s possible,” said Tourte. “If you go back a few years, you wouldn’t see female chair umpires on the ATP Tour. Now you see more and more, and as a young officer, when you’re watching TV and you see a woman in the chair, you might think, ‘Well, I could be there, I could make it.’”
For the first time in ATP history, all four matches on Center Court on Thursday were female referees, while the remainder of the event, starting with the quarterfinals, will be exclusively female referees.
Ali Nili, ATP’s Senior Director of Officiating Administration, said, “The ATP Officiating Department values high performance and a diverse team. The tournament in Sofia is an example of our successful efforts in this direction. Although the road to progress is long, we are proud of the direction we are taking and the future seems bright.”