From ball boy to Wimbledon qualifying, Colaba’s Tambe is going places
Shailesh Tambe will be travelling out of India later this week for his first assignment as a linesman – for Wimbledon. The 27-year-old from Colaba, Mumbai, will be officiating in the grass court Grand Slam’s qualifying competition at Roehampton starting on June 25.
He will be only the second Indian linesman to get an opportunity to work in Wimbledon while yet to attain a badge. Tennis officials are rated in terms of white, bronze, silver and gold badges in that order.
Kaushik Das of Calcutta was the first Indian linesman to officiate at Wimbledon without a badge a couple of years ago.
“Grand Slams reserve a few slots for applicants who don’t have a badge but are deserving officials. Shailesh has been exceptional in all the tournaments he has done in India in the last few years and has inevitably won the best linesman award in each tournament,” said Nitin Kannamwar, the ITF Officiating Regional Officer for Asia and a trailblazer of sorts for his compatriots.
But Wimbledon almost didn’t happen for Tambe due to lack of funds.
“For Wimbledon qualifying, one has to take care of all the expenses. I needed about Rs. 1 lakh which was beyond my capacity. So I was thinking of withdrawing when MSLTA offered me scholarship of Rs. 50,000,” he said.
Tambe, who hails from a poor background, began as a ballboy at the MSLTA Complex in Mumbai more than a decade ago and has risen through the ranks. His first pro tournament was the $25,000 women’s event in 2007.
He had to overcome a major setback in 2013 when both his parents passed away in the span of three months due to illness.
Till now, tennis officiating has been a part-time job for Tambe who began travelling outside Maharashtra from 2014 when he did the $100,000 ATP Challenger in Delhi. He has since worked in the ATP Challenger in Pune, the WTA Mumbai Open and the inaugural Maharashtra Open, an ATP 250 Series
“I keep watching videos on YouTube about linesmen, how to stand, how to make close calls, etc,” Tambe said of the secret behind his success.
Kannamwar hoped the Wimbledon opportunity will spur Tambe further.