First, thanks for officiating. It's a tough, thankless job and at the same time, we need more quality officials at our events. Cheating is a huge issue in junior tennis and a savy umpire can go a long ways to make the events better.
For the situation described, I think you need to overrule clear errors - but honestly, I think that it's a very tough call on the near sideline to judge if a ball was partially on the line. Your angle is not good and the the line is behind the ball from your perspective, correct? You actually have a better angle on all other lines (baseline, service line, far sideline) because then the ball is bouncing behind the line (from your perspective).
And note that as you move up and start to 'chair'...yes, you will be responsible for making all calls at certain levels of matches. Its a tough job!!
But yes, roving is a tough situation that can be frustrating for everyone. So maybe you didn't specifically ask...but the forum has been slow
So, beyond your specific scenario, here are some other things that I'd throw out as making the difference between a good roving official and the ones that don't help much (and even hurt).
These thoughts are all from experience. My kids have played a lot of matches with very fair and honest opponents. But they've also played a lot of cheaters and I've seen cheaters at work on other courts.
First, I think as a rover, the best service you can provide is keep the cheaters at bay. Catching or correcting an 'honest' mistake is nice, but a distant second to your true purpose.
There's several different kinds of cheaters. There's the 'big point' cheaters; there's the 'line's are out' cheaters; there's the 'changing the score' cheaters; there's the cheaters that accuse honest opponents of cheaters. Us parents spend a lot of money getting to these tourneys and it's beyond frustrating losing to a player who got away with cheating - and it's happened multiple times to all of us. A close match is really decided by 8 or 10 points and so a players who is willing to cheat 4 or 5 times can insure that he will beat his 'tennis equal'.
So, here's my list. I'm sure you know some or maybe all of these, but be assured, not all officials know this stuff because all of my comments are from experience.
- Don't chat it up with other officials when roaming. Cheaters know when you are not paying attention and it's very frustrating to see them get away with their tricks right under the nose of a rover who wasn't paying attention.
- While cheaters can strike at any time, given your limited resources, look for matches late in sets, supertiebreaks, or third sets.
- Understand which matches are being played very fairly by 1) prior reputation; and 2) observation (i.e. you see BOTH players playing close balls and giving benefit of doubt)...Don't waste time on these courts.
- Know what players have a reputation. Some might think this isn't right, but I think it is. That's the cost of being a cheater and your reputation SHOULD proceed you...and yes, officials WILL have it out for you.
- If a player requests a line judge, please provide. Of course you may not see any issues while you are standing their because the cheater will stop while you are there. But they will start again the minute you turn your back. So don't leave!
- On a close out call, if you are not able to overrule, then quickly CONFIRM the call. This will really help the opposing player put it behind them versus you saying "too close to tell". Just quickly tell them "yes, it was out" even if you couldn't tell for sure. This might seem minor, but it will really help the players. I've had friendly arguments over this with a few officials...but without a doubt, the officials that command the most respect and keep both players the most calm are the ones that do not use the "too close to tell" line.
- On clay, be an expert on marks. I've seen officials accept the worse marks. Some players will even make a mark with their rackets and try to call it a ball mark (and officials fall for it). Cross court balls make different marks than down the line marks. Circling marks is a great habit for players to get into on close calls for two reasons...it shows the mark for you and the opponent. And..it makes it hard to use that mark again later!
- This all said, note that if you get called to a court and a player can't find a mark...that doesn't mean the player cheated...in fact, it could be the opposite. A cheater doesn't challenge a call at first, then once the player walks away from where the ball landed, the cheater asks for a mark...then when you can't find it for sure, he call the official. This has happened to my kid a few times and the official gave the cheater the point!
- Also, understand that when you get called to a court...the more confident player is not always right. In a score dispute, a cheater might have a 'story' for every point while the other player is struggling to remember. I watched my kid collapse in the finals of a national tournament because a terrible cheater completely fabricated a story and the result was the umpire thinking my kid was the liar...the cheater won every game after that.
- Another bit... Often cheaters will repeatedly challenge calls trying to bully an honest player. Habitual "Are you sure???" is a common way cheaters bully fair players. If you see an "Are you sure?" on a ball clearly out, I suggest you keep an eye on the accuser.
I could probably list another 20 but this got way too long. Good luck to you and thanks for your efforts to be a better official!!