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Last Updated: Friday, 1 July, 2005, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
Faces of the week
Faces of the Week

Our regular look at some of the faces which have made the news this week. Above are ALAN MILLS (main picture), with ABIGAIL WITCHALLS, MARLON BRANDO, KENNY RICHEY and NIGELLA LAWSON.

ALAN MILLS

He's as integral to the Great English Summer as strawberries and cream and torrential rainstorms but, after 23 years as Wimbledon's final arbiter on all tennis, Alan Mills has decided to leave SW19.

No one, not Borg, not Navratilova, not even Sue Barker, knows the hallowed ground of the All England Tennis Club better than Alan Mills, referee at the world's most respected tournament.

And, just like the iconic Kipling lines above the players' entrance to Centre Court, he has met with triumph and disaster and treated "those two impostors just the same".

John McEnroe and Alan Mills in 1983
Flashpoint: Mac and Mills during one of their on-court confrontations
Champions have come and gone: Becker, Graf, Sampras, Hingis, but Mills, complete with his ubiquitous walkie-talkie and eyes turned to the heavens in a never-ending search for rain clouds, still remains in the post he inherited in 1982.

During this time, Mills has been Wimbledon's benign ringmaster: comforting a tearful Jana Novotna after her defeat in the 1993 Ladies' Final, sitting on the Order of Play committee which handed Goran Ivanisevic a wild card to victory in 2001 and looking on joyfully as Cliff Richards serenaded a rain-soddened Centre Court in 1996.

And when, as assistant referee in 1981, he famously wagged his finger at a furious John McEnroe after the player had called an umpire "the pits of the world", Alan Mills' photograph graced front pages around the world.

Talented player

But this was as nothing when compared to the Jeff Tarango Incident. Tarango stormed off court in 1995 after being docked a point for abusing the crowd, just before his wife, Benedicte, ran on and slapped the umpire in the face.

Mills' first experience of the All-England Championship was listening to the tournament on radio as a child.

Born in Manchester, he was Lancashire's senior champion by the age of 17. He first graced Wimbledon in 1955, losing in straight sets to the Australian, Jack Arkinstall.

The covers are pulled across Wimbledon's Centre Court
Cue Sir Cliff: The Centre Court rain covers appear once more
But Mills twice reached the last 16 in the men's singles, once beating the great Jaroslav Drobny before losing to Rod Laver.

Mills also represented Great Britain in the Davis Cup between 1959 and 1961, earning the grand sum of 3 a day and becoming the only man in the Cup's history to win 6-0, 6-0, 6-0.

After that, years of refereeing - he has never been an umpire - led Mills on the long road to Wimbledon.

Alan Mills' reflections on his time in the hot seat are mixed. He is pleased that the regular tantrums of the 1980s have given way to a more decorous approach.

No fan of grunting

"Behaviour has got much better than it used to be," he says. "But that's because the standard of officiating is better. There's now a certain amount of respect between players and officials."

But he does have a few concerns about Wimbledon's future. Controlling rowdy spectators is one, another is the noise emanating from players, especially those who are young and female.

"I personally would love them to stop doing it. I think it spoils the spectacle, certainly for television viewers and also for spectators...

Goran Ivanisevic after winning the Men's Singles in 2001
Wild-card champion: Alan Mills voted for Goran Ivanisevic in 2001
"I know with Maria (Sharapova), she is saying that she started grunting or screaming when she was four years old and she actually hates herself when she watches it, herself, on television."

Although Mills steps down after this year's championships, he will not be retiring from the sport altogether.

His legacy, and that of the outgoing chief executive, Chris Gorringe, is immense: the huge success of People's Sunday, when an extra day - added because of rain delays - allows anyone who turns up to watch the tennis.

And the decision to build a retractable roof over Centre Court, to be opened in 2009, and thousands more spectators through the gates.

Over and above this, next year will be the first for years when Alan Mills won't be losing any sleep over the weather forecast for London SW19.


Abigail Witchalls: Recovering
ABIGAIL WITCHALLS

Abigail Witchalls, the young pregnant mother who was paralysed after being stabbed in the neck in front of her toddler son, has been able to speak for the first time since her ordeal. She has also regained some movement in her limbs and can sit up in her wheelchair for most of the day. Witchalls said in a statement that she was excited by every bit of progress and felt in good hands and incredibly blessed.

Record prices: Marlon Brando
MARLON BRANDO

Marlon Brando fans splashed out $2.3m (1.3m) for an assortment of the late actor's possessions at an auction in New York. Chief among the memorabilia was the star's annotated copy of the script for The Godfather, for which he won an Oscar. The item eventually went for a record $300,000, 20 times its estimated auction price. Other lots, for which an offer could not be refused, included a photograph of Brando and Rita Moreno and a telegram from Marilyn Monroe.

Retrial: Kenny Richey
KENNY RICHEY

Kenny Richey, the British-born man whose death penalty conviction was overturned after 18 years on death row, is to stand trial a second time over the death of two-year-old girl, killed in an Ohio house fire exactly 19 years ago. Richey, who has dual British and American citizenship, came within an hour of execution 10 years ago. He has strongly maintained his innocence throughout and has enjoyed high-profile support from public figures including the late Pope John Paul II.

Nigella Lawson: New chat-show
NIGELLA LAWSON

Nigella Lawson has been promoting her new daytime TV chat show this week. Her programme is upping the stakes in the ratings war by offering guests lots of money even if they're plugging their latest project. Having posed provocatively with a bowl of fruit in promoting it, the Domestic Goddess commented "What seems incredibly kitsch and amusing in a photoshoot ends up looking like some German porno star gone mad when you see it on the page."

Compiled by BBC News Profiles Unit's Andrew Walker




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