Marijana Veljovic: Meet the 'super pretty' tennis umpire setting pulses racing at the Australian Open
While the action heats up on the court at the Australian Open, tennis fans online have been waxing lyrical about one of the officials maintaining fair play during the tournament – Serbian umpire Marijana Veljovic.
Usually, the official sat in the umpire's chair receives little attention, until a debatable line call or a warning is issued and a player starts to remonstrate with them.
And, sure enough, the umpire in Roger Federer's quarter-final win over Tennys Sandgren found herself the target of attention after the usually-unflappable Swiss star was handed a warning for a verbal obscenity during his come-from-behind win.Also on rt.com 'I got incredibly lucky': Comeback king Roger Federer saves SEVEN match points to reach Australian Open semi-finals (VIDEO)
But it wasn't the umpire's officiating of the match that caught the imagination of the fans. Put simply, fans were falling over themselves to declare their admiration, or indeed love, for Veljovic.
Didn’t think I’d ever say this but I’m in love with an Australian Open chair umpire. pic.twitter.com/wYYVXNRWTQ— Eric Hubbs (@BarstoolHubbs) January 16, 2019
Neither Roger Federer nor Tennys Sandgren seemed to run out of reasons to go talk to this Australian Open chair umpire. pic.twitter.com/ssN6rnPUHZ— Joe Mulder (@JoeMulder) January 28, 2020
It wasn't just the fans who noticed the striking figure sat in the umpire's chair. Women's tennis star Genie Bouchard – who has received plenty of online attention herself – tweeted to say: "The umpire in this Roger/Tennys match is super pretty."
the umpire in this roger/tennys match is super pretty 😍— Genie Bouchard (@geniebouchard) January 28, 2020
But, behind her striking looks is a dedicated, determined official who has worked tirelessly to reach the top of her profession.
Veljovic earned her umpire's gold badge in 2015 and has been a regular face at the big tournaments on the tour. She officiated the women's final in the 2018 Australian Open and had the honor of umpiring the 2019 Wimbledon women's singles final. Last year, she umpired the Fed Cup final.
"I never expected that I was going to be doing this for a living," she said in an interview with the International Tennis Federation.
"Tennis was always my passion, I had a great love for the sport. As I was playing tennis as a young kid my dream was basically to go to Wimbledon, even as a spectator. So for me being selected first of all for Wimbledon was somethine amazing and incredible.
But just being an umpire wasn't enough for Veljovic, who wanted to not just make it as a woman, but make it to the very top of the sport, on her own merit. But she also said that she is happy to see tennis offering equal opportunities for women that previously weren't available.
"Whether you are a girl or a guy, if you do well and they think you're good enough to do the biggest matches like a Davis Cup final or a Grand Slam, it feels amazing that our sport is allowing us that," she said.
"Are going to determine is she good enough really, because it's 'only' a female? Can she really do it? If we start thinking from that side I don't think it's fair and it's good, so yeah, I feel that tennis is giving us the right opportunities."
Clearly, with Veljovic taking charge of some of the biggest matches in the sport, she has risen to the very top of her profession, and she's happy to be a female role model for other aspiring female officials.
"It can be tough, you're away from home and things aren't always going a good way," she said.
"But the experience overall, I think it's a great experience, a great life experience. So yes, I would definitely recommend it."