There’s an army of personnel working behind-the-scenes to ensure an event as big as the Rolex Shanghai Masters is a success. This includes the Tournament Referee, whose responsibilities include ensuring the courts are ready, the matches start on time, supporting players on the court, and generally helping the tournament to progress in an orderly fashion.
“The hardest part of my job is actually getting players on the court,” laughs Dr. Ed Hardisty who’s been the Tournament Referee of the Rolex Shanghai Masters for all its eleven years.
“You’ve got to find them – they may be in the locker room, gym, or bathroom – and then get them ready to go on court together. It gets more complicated if you have one of the Top 8 seeds playing as they have separate locker rooms.”
Drawn to tennis at the age of 12 by fellow lefty Rod Laver, Dr. Hardisty started working in tennis in 1973 as an amateur linesman, coincidentally at an exhibition match featuring Rod Laver. From there, he worked his way up to chair umpire, referee, and then in 1988 as a full-time tournament supervisor, leaving behind a career as a professor of polymer chemistry.
Part of Dr. Hardisty’s job is making sure the players are well looked after, including a host of services like the player restaurant, laundry service, and transportation. “Everything here is top notch,” he says of the Rolex Shanghai Masters. “Transportation is important because the player hotel is about 45 minutes from the stadium and we don’t want a situation like at the US Open one year, when John McEnroe and Peter Fleming were disqualified for being stuck in a traffic jam.”
There’s even a music room on-site where players can jam in their free time, and this year, players arrived to find spacious, remodeled facilities, including an enormous gym and locker rooms.
Dr. Hardisty’s philosophy includes going the extra mile to accommodate special player requests.
“I remember Rafael Nadal asking for a bowl of dates on-court for his match one year,” he said. “We had to scramble to find them in the players’ restaurant, but after that, we always had a bowl ready for him. Some players like towels with the tournament logo whereas others like plain white towels. We also pre-launder the towels so that they’re extra fluffy and absorbent for the players.”
While showcasing the best in international men’s tennis, tournaments like the Rolex Shanghai Masters are especially important for Asian tennis – giving both fans and players rare access to the game’s elite.
“It’s only a matter of time before China produces top-class male players like they’ve done with the women,” notes Dr. Hardisty, who lived in Hong Kong for over 20 years before relocating to the UK. “Everybody said the Chinese were too small to do well, but Michael Chang proved them wrong with his French Open win. He let the world know you can be small but very professional and successful in this game. I’m sure there will be a flood of top-flight Chinese players, but it takes time; it won’t happen overnight.”
While the demands are great at a tournament of this size, managing 56 singles players and 32 doubles teams representing more than 30 nationalities, it’s not work if you enjoy what you do.
“The best part of my job is traveling, meeting people and getting to watch tennis,” says Dr. Hardisty. “I don’t see it as work. It’s a pleasure and I feel very lucky to be doing it.”