In Memoriam: Alan Mills, Beloved Wimbledon Referee, Tennis Coach, and “A Good Man”

  • Luke L 
Alan Mills and John McEnroe

Alan Mills and John McEnroe

The tennis world is mourning the loss of a legendary figure, Alan Mills, who served as the Wimbledon tournament referee from 1983 to 2005. Alan Mills, who passed away at the age of 88, was not only a key figure in officiating some of the most iconic matches in tennis history but also a respected player and coach.

Alan Mills’ Tennis Legacy

Before donning the hat of a referee, Mills had a notable career as a tennis player and coach. In 1966, he reached the Wimbledon men’s doubles semi-finals, showcasing his prowess on the court. His achievements extended beyond Wimbledon, making it to the third round of the French Open on two occasions. Mills’ dedication and skill on the court laid the foundation for a multifaceted career that would leave an indelible mark on the sport.

The ‘Rain Man’ of Wimbledon

Mills earned the affectionate nickname ‘Rain Man‘ during his tenure at Wimbledon, reflecting his pivotal role in deciding whether to suspend play during inclement weather. His responsibility extended beyond the typical duties of a referee, making him a familiar face to millions of tennis enthusiasts worldwide. His keen judgment and composure during challenging situations endeared him to players, officials, and fans alike.

A Gentleman on and off the Court

One of the distinguishing features of Alan Mills was his impeccable character and integrity. The ATP Tour, in a statement, highlighted Mills’ contributions to the sport and described him as a figure with unwavering integrity. Gerry Armstrong, another former Wimbledon referee, paid tribute, acknowledging Mills as a great influence and a source of encouragement to officials globally.

Notable Moments and Challenges

Alan Mills Portrait

Alan Mills

Mills’ career wasn’t without its share of challenges and intense moments. He presided over matches featuring tennis legends like John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors during a period when the sport saw some of its most unruly players. His ability to handle difficult situations with diplomacy and respect contributed to the smooth functioning of Wimbledon, earning him the admiration of players and colleagues.

In reflecting on their dynamic, McEnroe shared, “Alan was a good man… We were oil and water, I suppose. But I think there’s a certain camaraderie in the tennis world. I did feel bad because, you know, I put him in some bad situations that he didn’t want to be in. He was always looking to defuse the situation with me. I appreciated that, even though I pretty much wasn’t listening to him anyway.

Legacy Beyond Wimbledon

While Mills officially stepped down as Wimbledon referee in 2005, his love for the sport remained undiminished. He continued to officiate at various ATP, WTA, and ATP Champions Tour events until 2015. His enduring commitment to tennis and sportsmanship made him a revered figure, not just within the Wimbledon grounds but across the broader tennis community.

A Life Well-Lived

Alan Mills received well-deserved recognition for his contributions, being awarded an OBE in 1996 and a CBE in 2006 for his services to sport. His impact on tennis extended far beyond the matches he officiated; he influenced the culture of the sport, leaving behind a legacy of fairness, respect, and a passion for tennis.

Final Farewell

As we bid farewell to Alan Mills, we remember a man who seamlessly transitioned from a talented player to a respected referee, leaving an indelible mark on the world of tennis. His legacy serves as an inspiration, reminding us of the values that make sportsmanship timeless.

In the quiet of Centre Court, under the watchful gaze of countless memories, Alan Mills’ contributions to tennis will endure, etching his name into the annals of Wimbledon’s rich history. The tennis community, forever grateful for his dedication, says goodbye to a true stalwart of the sport.

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