Sometimes RolandGarros.com generously does my work for me. So thoughtful. Today, Forty Deuce's favourite tennis official got a "One-on-One With..." at RG.com, and since I'm lazy and it's not very long, here it is:
Described by some as the Pierluigi Collina of tennis, Lahyani is difficult to miss on tour thanks to his booming voice and the winning smile that is never far from his lips. Respected by both his peers and the players, he is a top class umpire who puts his success down to “a passion for the job.”
"Umpiring was a hobby that became my profession," explains Lahyani, who was born in Uppsala to Moroccan parents. "I was just a normal boy who liked playing tennis and never dreamed I’d become an umpire. But during the Swedish Masters in 1983, I agreed to lend a hand and sat in the chair. I had a whale of a time umpiring Wilander, Edberg and a few others. That’s where I really caught the bug."
Lahyani obtained his umpiring badge in 1991 and the following year officiated at the Barcelona Olympics as well as tournaments in Nice and Monte Carlo. Since gaining professional status in 1997 he has officiated at countless Grand Slams including 17 consecutive Wimbledons. Lahyani has a unique umpiring style, invariably creating a relaxed atmosphere on the court but always staying focused.
"I’m not a dictator when I get in that chair," he says. "I encourage dialogue. I earn the players’ trust and respect by being communicative and keeping a friendly face." He also has the respect and admiration of the line judges, as one of the Roland Garros officials explains "He puts us at ease. He never hesitates to give a quick wink or nod to let us know we made a good decision. He’s cool. We’re always relaxed when he’s in the chair."
Lahyani can boast that he umpired the only duel between Pete Sampras and Roger Federer (at Wimbledon in 2001) and recalls the recent 3 hour 59 minute nail-biter between Nadal and Djokovic in Madrid as being one of the most exciting matches he has umpired to date.
Overseeing a Grand Slam final is the 40-something umpire’s dream, though it is not an obsession. "It would be a rewarding experience, but I get just as much pleasure from officiating two unknown players in an empty stadium. You know, earning the respect of the players is like a Grand Slam for me!"
Seriously, I was so happy to see it because I haven't seen MoLay once this week and I was beginning to doubt that he was even there. Which would put a serious damper on my enjoyment of the ATP side of RG. Then again, perhaps it is my fault for muting my TV so often. I loved the story of how he got started, though; it sounds for all the world like he was volunteering at the registration booth at the 1983 Swedish Open and at some point they sent out a match, realized they didn't have an umpire, and just asked for volunteers. Bizarre.
Oh, and also? The picture is gold: