In our Tennis365 exclusive, umpire Fergus Murphy talks to Kevin Palmer about how he “fell into this life” and also reveals what it’s like to work alongside the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Only a chosen few are blessed with the talent to make it as top tennis professionals, yet Fergus Murphy has enjoyed a career pinnacle of the game without ever picking up a racquet.
The Dubliner has become one of the most familiar faces on the tennis tour as an elite chair umpire for more than two decades and he has given Tennis365 an insight into his journey from amateur events in his native Ireland to the show courts at all of the world’s biggest tennis tournament.
Murphy knows only too well that he may be just one contentious line call away from a headline-grabbing confrontation with a star player, yet the pressure he is forced to deal with is worth it for a lifestyle that allows him to see the most interesting cities in the world and share a lavish lifestyle with some of the highest-earning stars in sport.
This is a dream job for many, with Murphy revealing that his life alongside Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and the rest started from humble beginnings.
“I was studying to be a barrister before I fell into this life,” he begins. “It all started when I did a bit of umpiring in Ireland and decided I wanted to see how far I could take it. I looked into the ways of moving on and, after doing the exam system that is in place, I did my first Grand Slam at the Australian Open in 1995. That was my first big trip and it went very well.
“Things started happening for me after that and I seemed to get a lot of support when I first went to America to officiate. I suppose the idea of an Irishman called Murphy umpiring the biggest names in the world appealed to the Irish community and tournament officials in the States and they gave me plenty of encouragement and support, which was a big help.
“So what was a little three-month job in 1995 turned into a six-month run and then a year. Since then, I’ve never done anything else. I just fell into this really and it seemed like a great career move which I have never regretted.
“I have experienced so much over the course of this career and wouldn’t swap those experiences for the world. I’ve seen some amazing places all over the world, met some great people and been lucky enough to be around a sport that is enjoying a real boom at the moment.
“For me this is a great era for men’s tennis. People were complaining not so long a go that we didn’t have enough characters, but the battle between Federer and Nadal is fascinating and there are so many other interesting guys from all over the world battling it out as well and I am lucky to be in a great position to watch it all unfold in front of me.”
* Look out for part two on Wednesday when Murphy talks about the importance of not being “very pally” with players” and the rush of excitement he gets every time he packs his bags.
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