Rio was a thorough success in every sense of the word: Saibal Banerjee

Saibal Banerjee at Rio Tennis Court

Rio was a thorough success in every sense of the word: Saibal Banerjee

India Blooms News Service | 28 Aug 2016

Saibal Banerjee, an ITF Bronze Badge Umpire, was present at the Rio Olympics. Banerjee was one of the two Indian Tennis umpires who officiated at the mega event. In a chat with IBNS-TWF correspondent Sudipto Maity, he shares his experience while answering other queries

Has the feeling sunk in yet ??

Well to be honest this is a feeling you take to your grave. No, it is yet to sink in .

Why did you choose umpiring? When did it all start?

Well I was not a bad kind of player in my teens, having practically no proper guidance in my playing days, and as it happens in orthodox Bengali families, my parents thought academics would give me better leverage than sports in my professional arena. But the bug bite stayed with me. I have to thank my seniors, Saikat Roy and Abhishek Mukherjee, who suggested that umpiring might be a way to stay connected with the sports. Then there it was. I think my first event was Nationals Grass court in Calcutta South Club, way back in 1999 .

Saibal Banerjee at Wimbeldon

What are the quintessential qualities a good umpire must possess? How do you prepare before a game?

A Tennis Umpire must have a good eyesight, must have the capability of quick thinking and the ability to react on situation to situation basis. Above all he should have the gift of distinguishing different circumstances and judge accordingly. But all these goes to vain if an Umpire fails to communicate properly. He also should have the poise and image of a thorough professional.

Well different people prepare differently. I do like to calm myself down before a match and picture myself on the chair before the match. Visualizing different situations and handling them is key aspect in my preparations.

How different is officiating in an Olympics from a Grand Slam tournament?

As a professional...every match is equally important to me, be it Grand Slams or Olympics. But Olympics has a different aura to it. Here I do not only umpire matches, but I also witness the heart breaks/joy of an entire nation, which is unmatched. All the professional events are managed by the best in the field so each event provides an unique experience.


A lot of top level athletes had withdrawn from the games owing to the 'Zika fear'. Do you think it in accordance with the spirit of the Olympics? What effect did it have in the games?

All these top level athletes are thorough professionals and great sport persons in their own right and have won laurels for their respective countries. I am sure they had their own valid reasons. It is unethical and impossible for me to comment on them. The Rio 2016 was a thorough success in every sense of the word.

Did this Zika Virus issue bother you? Did you ever second guess about going there to officiate?

Well never there was a second thought about it. It is a dream come true for an official to be a part of Olympics. We were briefed adequately by International Tennis Federation , so there was not even a pinch of fear of Zika.

Given a chance, in hindsight, would you have selected a different team for India in tennis?

Haha, I am extremely happy with what I am doing at the moment and have not ever given it a thought.

Do you think we lack the power/stamina and confidence to win medals at the biggest stage?

Well as a race we are smaller in sizes. We used to lack the power and stamina of the Europeans previously, but lately I am seeing more and more Indian athletes with larger built. I am sure if we give them some time they would start producing desired results.

And if we talk about confidence, let’s start by saying that we have to change the mentality of millions of parents in India who think sports is just an “Extra Curricular Activity” . Discouraging the kids to take up playing sports is never a confidence booster at any stage of the game.

Saibal Banerjee at closing ceremony Rio 2016

Did you catch up with the other events? What did you make of the Indian contingent?

Unfortunately I could not catch up with any other events. I am sure that this was a great contingent (India). Please remember we were not a sports playing nation till some time back (barring cricket), we have to be given time to learn, adapt, perform and win .

How does it feel to represent your country in an Olympic event?

In a nutshell-  “This is the pinnacle of every achievement." It is every person's dream to represent his/her country in something. I am lucky I could do it in Olympics .

How was the Rio experience?

Well, Rio was amazing. It is very easy to say something about them from a distance, but when you go there and see what they have done for the success of this Olympics…It is humongous. From every volunteer to security person, they ensured every participant has a life time experience in Rio. Remember, they started the preparation of this Olympics from around 2012 when the world was still not out of the  economic collapse of 2008. It is therefore not only commendable, it also shows what human being can do when they set their heart to something.

You are also a member of Tennis Officials India (TOI), what steps have you taken or are planning to take for the betterment of tennis umpiring in India?

Well, TOI is the Body of Tennis Officials in India. From baby steps to adulthood, it will take some time. We now have programmes for young and upcoming officials. We now can boast of exchange programmes where Indian officials can go and gain valuable experience out of India. We do support the officials in all officiating issues. And we do have plans for the future for the all round betterment of every Tennis official in the country.

What do you do when you are not umpiring?

Well I love photography, so I do like to go around with my camera. Sleeping is my favorite pastime (Haha). .

Is there a myth related to your job you would want to debunk?

The myth is this job is very easy and anybody can go up the chair and be a Tennis umpire.

It is not at all easy to do what we do. It involves lot of sacrifice, dedication and skills. It’s a profession where pressure taking would be your second nature.

What's the most exciting part about your job?

To be in the best seat possible in the match .

Photo Caption

1:Saibal Banerjee at Rio Tennis  Court 

 2:Saibal Banerjee at Wimbeldon

 3.Saibal Banerjee at Rio Olympics 2016

 4.Saibal Banerjee at closing ceremony Rio 2016

Rio was a thorough success in every sense of the word: Saibal Banerjee

India Blooms News Service
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