Desrae Garratt has a lifelong affinity to tennis. Of Ngāi Te Rangi origin, she has been named as a finalist for the umpire of the year at Māori Sports Awards this weekend.
"To be a tennis umpire you have to have passion for the sport," she says in her South Auckland home, a passion which is evident she possesses by the tennis court in the backyard. Garratt started playing at age five, playing inter-marae tennis in Tauranga, "I started at our Waikari Marae. And again I continued after school, and today I'm still playing," she says.
She is "honoured to be a finalist" for the Aratiatia Award, however she says she is proud for her whānau from Matapihi, in Tauranga.
In 2003, Garratt took the opportunity offered by Auckland Tennis to become an umpire, and more than 15 years later is officiating matches and tournaments up and down the country, including the ASB Classic tournaments that feature some of the World's best tennis players, including the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena.
It is that passion that she talks about that has seen her officiate at these tournaments, and she would like to see more Māori get involved in the sport "I encourage as many Māori take up umpiring," she says.
Looking at her schedule for the summer, it is clear that it does take someone with incredible passion for the sport to do what she does, "the summer period is always my busiest time, with the juniors, New Zealand Nationals, ASB Classics and our Māori Tennis Association Championships, and the Caro Bowl."
Before the awards on Saturday, Garratt will be officiating the Caro Bowl men's final on Friday night between Karaka and Blockhouse Bay.
The Māori Sports Award will be livestreamed on maoritv.com, with a highlights package on Māori TV on Sunday night.