'How it should be': How female umpires 'stood up' to Federer and Nadal

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor

Leading tennis analyst David Law has led the praise for Marijana Veljovic and Aurelie Tourte after their performances in umpiring Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open.

Veljovic was in the chair for Federer’s win over Tennys Sandgren on Tuesday, while Tourte umpired Nadal’s loss to Dominic Thiem on Wednesday.

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And both women had to deal with some anger from tennis legends.

Federer grilled Veljovic after he was reported for an audible obscenity by a line judge, clearly not happy after Veljovic refused to back down about what was heard.

Aurelie Tourte and Marijana Veljovic. Image: Getty

“If it was clear why didn’t you call it?” Federer asked Veljovic, challenging the umpire.

“She is 100 per cent sure? She is from Switzerland right? Give me a break.”

Nadal was then left fuming after Tourte hit him with a number of time violations, umpiring to the letter of the law and sticking to her guns.

"It is really amazing after this point that you put the chrono straight. It is really amazing," Nadal said in a furious rant.

"You don't like the good tennis. You don't like the good tennis."

Leading analysts praise Veljovic and Tourte

Speaking on the BBC’s Tennis Podcast on Thursday, Law praised both Veljovic and Tourte for not being overawed by the legends of Federer and Nadal.

“It’s a tough job and what I did like, and it was the same last night (in Federer’s match), is these umpires who were not just kowtowing to the big name,” Law said.

“She (Tourte) was trying to do her job correctly, no matter who it was and whether you agreed exactly with the way she deployed the rules — that’s up to the individual.

“But once in a while we do see umpires occasionally bend and I don’t like that.

“I really like seeing the fact they just get on with the job, do the job — that’s what we’re here for. So good for them.”

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal both argued with the umpires. Image: Getty

Fellow analyst Matt Roberts was also full of praise.

“That’s two days in a row now, Marijana Veljovic and Aurelie Tourte have stood up to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and are not going to umpire the match any differently than they would if it was someone else,” he said.

“That’s exactly how it should be.”

Co-host Catherine Whitaker said both umpires had acted brilliantly.

“They’re also not trying to make a point of being authoritarian or anything,” Whitaker said.

“They’re just no-nonsense doing their thing. It was great. They’re not trying to be buddies with the players.”

The Tennis Podcast analysts weren’t alone, with a number of other leading writers taking to social media to commend Veljovic and Tourte.

“Enjoying how these elite female umps aren’t trying to be buddies with the Big 3 out there in these quarterfinals,” New York Times writer Ben Rothenberg said.

Tumaini Carayol of The Guardian added: “Aurélie Tourte and Marijana Veljovic standing their ground against the two most successful male players of all time in consecutive days.

“Players can have no complaints about favourable treatment in these matches.”

Courier and Woodbridge not happy

However not everyone was impressed, with Jim Courier and Todd Woodbridge suggesting Tourte was too pedantic in her umpiring of Nadal.

Both took umbrage when Tourte didn’t allow Nadal to challenge a service call because he’d taken too long to check the mark of where the ball landed.

“Surely he’s allowed to go look at the mark,” Courier said in commentary for Channel Nine.

“That’s ridiculous. He walked straight there to go look at it.”

Woodbridge said it was “absurd”.

“Hawk-eye system has been in play now for quite some time. The reason it is often disallowed is if the player looks and gets encouragement from someone in their box that, hey, that was out, you should challenge it,” he said.

“They want the players to be the one that decide it. Rafa didn’t look at anyone.”