In the first round of this year’s US Open, Venus Williams won the first round match 5-4 and tied the match 40-40. Chair umpire Kader Nooney issued a “deuce” that echoed throughout Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Some viewers snickered; Others have tried to imitate the deep baritone voice.
Nuni, who has been part of the WTA for more than a decade, is used to the comments.
When he was 16, Nooney called a girlfriend at home and her father picked up the phone, he recalled in a recent interview in Manhattan’s Bryant Park. The girl’s father gave her phone to his son, but the next day, Nuny’s boyfriend told him that her father did not believe that they were the same age.
“Because of your voice,” Nooney recalled. “That’s How It Started”
These days, 46-year-old Frenchman Nooney has become a household name among tennis watchers, even attracting fans with his resonant, melodious voice.
Fabrice Choquet, senior vice president of tournament and venue operations for the WTA, said Nuny’s unique style and vocal excellence made him a favorite among players and fans alike.
Amanda Gaston, a tennis fan from Xenia, Ohio, played a few matches at the Near West and South Open in August at Noone’s call. She described Nunn as “the Barry White of tennis.”
“When he sat in the chair, I knew right away it was him,” Gaston said. It’s a very unique, deep tone that you can immediately recognize.
Cliff Jenkins of Cincinnati tries to imitate Noone when he and his friend are on the bench. “He has a velvety baritone voice — light, effortless and full of richness,” Jenkins says.
Such praise for the tree bothered Nunn – he said he was better known for his voice than his work.
“We always say that a good authority is someone we don’t talk to,” Nuni said. “I always wanted to be good and I want people to talk more about good authority.”
Now, as a gold badge umpire, the highest level of tennis officials, Nooney feels he has proven himself in the business, and comments about his voice don’t bother him all that much.
“If you want to keep talking about my voice, then I don’t have a problem,” he said.
In a solitary chair several feet above the court, a referee keeps the score and enforces the rules of the game, but his job also extends to controlling the emotions of the players on the court. That’s why a voice like Nuni’s is an effective tool in what he believes is one of the primary keys to ministry – communication.
“If you don’t know how to sell the call, it won’t do you any good,” he said. “There is always this pressure on players. If you’re not happy with your call, you’re going to get angry. If the people are not happy with your call, they are going to be angry.”
Before becoming a referee, Nooney’s first job in the sport was at the age of 9 at a tennis club, where he was doing things like stringing rackets. Nooney and his brother wanted to play tennis, but education and court time were expensive for their mother, and after Nooney’s father died at the age of 2, she raised them alone in the southern French city of Perpignan.
“It wasn’t easy,” he said. We had to work so we could play tennis.
When Nooney was 12 years old, a tournament organizer was looking for officials for a local tournament and asked Nooney if he would like to work as a referee for adult matches. He forced it without realizing it would become his job for decades.
“It’s funny when you’re 12 years old and you’re dealing with adults and you have to listen to them,” Nooney said.
For a while, officiating matches in local tournaments was just a summer job. But when Nooney was 16 years old, he was invited to call matches at the national championships in Paris. The tournament was special for Nooney because he and other junior officials slept at the Roland Garros complex and were allowed to play on clay courts when official matches were not being held. For Nooney, who lived in public housing with his family, staying at home at the French Open was a wonderful experience.
“We didn’t have a lot of money,” Nooney said. “For me, the French Open, just in the summer, it was awesome to be there.”
Nooney’s performance in that tournament led to him being selected as a linesman for the 1992 French Open. Since then, Nooney has refereed dozens of Grand Slams and tournaments around the world, including the 2018 Wimbledon women’s singles final, where he was the bench judge. In the year In 2007, 2009, 2013, 2014 and 2021, Nuny was the chair referee for five French Open women’s finals.
With so many memorable matches under his belt, Nuni finds it difficult to single out just one, but he always remembers the firsts – his first in New York for the US Open, his first at the Olympics and his first on Center Court at Wimbledon.
“Those times are great,” Nunn said. “Being in the middle of the action is priceless.”
The job also comes with downsides, such as occasional booing by players, often in high-stakes matches and especially in tournaments where the US Open doesn’t have automatic line calls. In the year At the 2012 Australian Open, David Nalbandian overturned a line umpire’s call for Nooney to “shut up” after Nooney called John Isner’s serve an ace.
“Let’s play,” Nuni stepped into the microphone, trying to regain control of the game.
The game was delayed when Nalbandian called the referee to the court. Nuni’s call stopped, and after losing the match, Nalbadian told reporters that Nuni was unfit to referee.
Nooney said giving up tough calls can be tough, but he uses them as a learning experience.
“You don’t think about it every day, but it’s somewhere, it’s a part of you,” he said. “You don’t think about the best calls.”
On tour, Nooney calls two matches a day during the first week of the tournament, and has other duties such as evaluating the referees.
“The first week is work, work, work, work,” Nuney said.
But traveling around the world for the tour gave him a chance to see the sights and explore. (A trip to Central Park and a Broadway show were on his to-do list while he was in New York.) The trip introduced him to people from different cities.
“I’ve been in the business for a while, so now I have friends all over the world,” says Nooney.
While the tour will mean more travel days, Nooney says he has no plans to retire from tennis anytime soon.
“If you don’t like this job, you can’t do it,” Nooney said. “Impossible. You will not survive. “I think I’ll stop when I feel it’s time to stop, and I’m not enjoying it right now.”
When that time comes, Nooney joked, maybe his voice will give him a shot at another career.
“Maybe Disney came to me and asked me to do some voices for them.”