Obituary | Alan Mills

Alan Ronald Mills, best known for his time as referee for The Championships at Wimbledon from 1983 to 2005, died last Thursday at the age of 88.

He was the ultimate referee, always in charge and in control irrespective of how difficult the rain delays were at Wimbledon. Tim Henman

He gained the nickname of ‘Rain Man’ as he, could be hovering at the back of the court, walkie talkie in hand, glancing at the sky and gauging when to give the call for the covers to be pulled over in the days before the retractable roofs were constructed.

In a statement from the ATP, he was described as having “an impeccable character and integrity” who “treated every player equally”.

Tim Henman, added: “He was the ultimate referee, always in charge and in control irrespective of how difficult the rain delays were at Wimbledon. He was also a dear friend.”

He was a quiet and assured man, who was able to deal and defuse explosive moments from the likes of Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. As a former player himself – he reached the fourth round at Wimbledon twice, the doubles semis once and played the mixed with his wife Jill Rook – and understood their needs and problems.

To help them he instigated an open-door policy in an attempt to defuse any tensions which may arise on court.

Mills was responsible for disqualifying Tim Henman at Wimbledon in 1995 when he hit a ball into a ball kid, saying he knew the action had been an unfortunate mistake by the Brit,

“Alan was loved and respected by all who knew him. I am so pleased we were able to spend time with him at Wimbledon last year at the Last 8 Club dinner,” tennis legend Billie Jean King said on learning the news.

“Sending our thoughts and prayers to his family.”

Mills himself was aware that the world of tennis was changing, declaring in the during his term as referee: “Until recently tennis had been a gentlemanly, relatively sedate sport when the winner would walk off with his arm around his opponent and buy him a drink or two in the bar afterwards,” he said.

“But since the late 1970s a different kind of animal had come to stalk the court, and once the barriers of good conduct had been broken down, this new breed had begun to stampede into the former bastion of civilised behaviour with a terrifying lack of embarrassment or shame.”

Gerry Armstrong, one of his successors, said: “Alan was a great influence on myself and many officials around the world. He was always helpful and encouraging during the years we worked together at Wimbledon and on the ATP Tour. It was a great honour to work alongside him in professional tennis for many decades.”

Mills, a top junior player from Lancashire, won the RAF Tennis Championships twice, represented GB in three Davis Cup ties and was the first Englishman to beat Australian Rod Laver in 1961. In the Davis Cup he was the first player to score a 6-0 6-0 6-0 win during a tie against Luxembourg.

He continued to act as referee at some of the elite ATP and WTA events until 2015 and was awarded and OBE in 1996 and promoted to CBE in the 2006 New Year Honours list.

He is survived by his two children his wife Jill having died a few years ago.



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