In the early 2000s, at a Futures pro tennis event at the Village Glen Tennis Club, Turhan Wilbon was one of the tournament referees and in charge of hiring local officials. Dave Filipski, an avid player and a follower of the game, asked Wilbon if he could be a line judge.
Wilbon wasn't sure at first. However, he decided to give Filipski a chance.
Filipski did an outstanding job and was on his way to becoming an excellent line judge, and eventually a referee.
"I was told that I had good eyes, made good judgments and had the potential to be a good line judge," Filipski said.
After minimal training, Filipski went to Binghamton to act as line judge for another tournament. Then he went to Schenectady to work a $50,000 pro event. "Fortunately, I was receiving good reports on my line judging," he said.
As Filipski's reputation spread he started to work as a line judge at more prestigious tournaments. In 2006, he reached the ultimate. He was asked to work at the U.S. Open.
"I was thrilled and humbled at the same time," Filipski said. "I was ready to meet the challenge and had one of the most wonderful experiences of my life."
Filipski admitted that the pressure was unbelievable. Serves hit at 130 mph were commonplace and you had to stay focused at all times. Filipski related that calling the base lines were the hardest and not the service lines, surprising due to the speed of the serves.
"Not so," Filipski said. "With the serve you are looking at a one-shot deal and can actually relax a little." Filipski noted that base-line rallies can go on a while and you have to watch every shot carefully.
Filipski stressed that there were more than 100 line judges at the Open. Your housing, transportation, food, clothing for the tournament, and food are all taken care of.
"Just being there was the ultimate for me," Filipski said. "It was a phenomenal feeling, watching the matches, observing the massive crowds, and making sure that I didn't make any mistakes, are memories I will never forget."
Filipski has never gone back to the U.S. Open to work. "I had achieved my goal to line judge at the Open and felt that it was a once in a lifetime experience that I will always cherish," he said.
Filipski's reputation was growing, and after extensive training to be a referee Filipski was offered a new challenge, one he considered the ultimate goal for someone who loved the game. A classroom teacher for many years, he approaches being a referee as if the court was his classroom.
If a player is cheating or is furious at a supposedly bad line call, some officials will get in a player's face. Not Filipski. He will get the player under control by giving him or her a soft warning. Filipski even admits that it is possible that he might miss a call, as rare as it might be. On a few occasions an irate coach or player will be furious about a call. Filipski will quietly say, "This is what I saw and I made the decision to the best of my ability." Filipski especially likes refereeing at the college level. He has refereed matches for UB, the Atlantic 10 Championships, and the Big Ten. He enjoys working matches at the college level because "If a player wins a point the crowd goes crazy. There is such a great feeling of camaraderie and support for the players that it is almost contagious with players, spectators, line people, and coaches.
Filipski also referees International Tennis Federation and junior tournaments. His line judging and refereeing have been instrumental in his being a highly sought after teaching pro at the Village Glen. Why? Filipski says that before college matches he arrives at the playing site an hour before the matches start. He watches how the teams practice and what drills they perform. During the match he notes what each player is hitting, the types of shots that they use, and how they react in different situations.
This has helped him with his own teaching. He has an affinity for noting in which areas students need to improve and successfully administers the teaching techniques that make them successful.
Filipski is especially proud of Patty MacFarlane, one of his students, who is the wife of Mark Goldsman, one of the area's top senior tennis players.
"Two years ago Patty started taking lessons from me," Filipski said. "She had never played tennis in her life and had no athletic experience to speak of. She worked as hard as any student I have ever taught. Any success she has had is due to her great work ethic.
"She presently plays 2-3 times a week and is on a 2.5 USTA team. That's what makes teaching so rewarding. Seeing someone like Patty improve and enjoy the game so much is the greatest thrill I could ask for."