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Saturday, 17 June, 2000, 23:31 GMT 00:31 UK
Wimbledon supremo speaks out
One of the most familiar figures at Wimbledon is referee Alan Mills, usually seen at the back of the court glancing a furrowed brow towards the cloudy heavens or waiting to come on and settle a dispute between a raging player and umpire. He speaks to BBC Sport Online.
A Davis Cup player for Britain and one-time Wimbledon competitor himself, Alan is now in his 18th year at Wimbledon.
The toughest task he ever faced at Wimbledon was to disqualify a young Tim Henman in 1995.
Henman, then aged 20, smashed a ball in frustration in a doubles match and hit a ball-girl on the head.
Mills says: "I knew what it meant, both to Tim Henman and people in Britain. But the rules were clear and I had to do it."
He says: "I certainly don't admire some of his antics on court and unfortunately he will be remembered more for those than the beautiful tennis he played. But personally I did not have that much trouble."
"Every time I have been on court to speak to him, it's been far easier to talk with him than it is to many other players. At least he's completely up front. He makes sure everyone within miles knows what his complaints are."
"And if you can answer them with something he will accept, then fine. It is all over and off he goes. There are others that keep on going, keep niggling all the time."
He is ultimately responsible for enforcing the rules and decides who plays on what court and at what time - including who gets a match on Court Two, the so-called "seeds graveyard" after the number of top players who have lost there.
He says: "The players give me their preferences and I try to go along with them. But one year when McEnroe was put on Court Two, and he phoned me to ask why.
"I knew because I had played on it myself. He said 'fine', won his match and that was the end of it."
But whatever happens, Mills never loses any sleep, either over enforcing the rules or the almost inevitable rain delays.
He says: I might not get much sleep during Wimbledon, but I certainly don't lose any of it worrying."
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