The National Bank Open, formerly Rogers Cup

Cashmere  Behind the Baseline:  Chair ump keeps calm while breaking barriers

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August 13, 2022
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Tuesday, August 9, 2022 – Katarzyna Radwan-Cho looks on during the 2022 National Bank Open presented by Rogers at Sobey’s Centre in Toronto, Ontario. (Peter Power/Tennis Canada).

Chair umpires bear an enormous responsibility during a match and Kasia Radman-Cho is always up for the challenge.

Perched in her nearly two metres high seat, she is responsible for calling the score, enforcing the rules, managing the players and fans. While emotions and adrenaline are running high on Centre Court and in the stands at the National Bank Open, presented by Rogers or any other top tournament, Radwan-Cho stays even keel.

“What helps me in officiating is being able to stay calm and distance myself from what is happening,” said Radwan-Cho. “I never take personally what players say to me. I don’t get upset because I understand the emotions that are going on inside of them. Even though sometimes it’s not pleasant to hear certain things, I know that when they calm down, they will come to their senses. I’ve been told many times that I’m always so calm. I think it’s my superpower.”

When Radwan-Cho started officiating, she had no idea she would become a chair umpire one day. It was her brother that first attended officiating school in her native Poland that got her interested when she was a teenager. She saw him working as a line umpire at an ATP challenger event in their hometown of Poznan and loved the idea of being able to combine her love for tennis with a career.

She attended officiating school and started working in local tournaments in her region and fell in love with the atmosphere, the people and being on court. She started to do more tournaments in Poland as a line umpire and in 2008 travelled abroad to Barcelona for her first international tournament. That’s when she realized it was something she really loved. Her career unfolded from there.

“The more chairs I was doing, the more I was enjoying it,” said Radwan-Cho. “When it comes to the development of an official, it’s step by step. When you’re comfortable, when you’re confident, when you have enough experience, when supervisors see you can handle a bit more, you start to do bigger matches that are more exposed. You start to go to bigger tournaments and it’s quite an adventure. There’s this constant challenge and it’s very enjoyable.”

At the National Bank Open, presented by Rogers, Radwan-Cho’s schedule has been intense but having a job she adores makes it easier to handle. She recently entered a very elite group of officials earning her Gold Badge in December 2021. Selected by a joint certification committee that consists of representatives from the WTA, ATP, ITF, and Grant Slams who meet annually to decide which officials to move up in the ranks, the promotion is a major accomplishment. One of only 12 women to hold the highest certification which allows her to umpire Grand Slam events, she admits that she still has to pinch herself, when she thinks about it.

“I used to watch a lot of tennis as a kid, and I always dreamed about going to a Grand Slam, not even dreaming about working there one day,” said Radwan-Cho. “Now when I’m actually on Centre Court on the other side of the TV, I just try to appreciate it…Being promoted I just want to cherish this moment. It’s been half a year since it happened and it’s still something that I have to remind myself, and whenever I do, I smile.”

Now a permanent Canadian resident living in Kitchener, ON, with her husband, Radwan-Cho considers the National Bank Open presented by Rogers her home tournament.

“Working here is always a highlight of the year for me,” said Radwan-Cho. “To be here, to know all the people, I feel like I’m home. I enjoy the whole experience of being a part of the tournament.”

Still very much a pioneer in the male dominated industry, being a woman in the field is not something she thinks about constantly but she does take encouraging other women to join the industry very seriously. She hopes to give women that extra boost, and to show them gender is not a limitation to what you can achieve as an official. 

Her goal is to see more Canadian women and beyond set out on the path to becoming an official. 

“Right now, I definitely try to help out women,” said Kasia. “ I think women sometimes need a little bit more support. Sometimes I wish I had it when I was starting. Not that I was not given opportunities but sometimes just to have someone say, ‘You’re doing a good job.’ I try to do this and to encourage women into officiating.”