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Wimbledon top 10: Umpires, line-judges, officials

The hands of a line judge are shown.
by Mark Hodgkinson
Tuesday 2 July 2013

The Championships couldn't happen without them. Wimbledon.com brings you tales from the umpires, line-judges and officials.

1. With one of the most remarkable displays of bladder control in the history of professional tennis, umpire Mohamed Lahyani didn't once leave the court for a loo break during John Isner's 11-hour victory over Nicolas Mahut at the 2010 Championships. "I like to have a double espresso for breakfast, but that will be my only coffee of the day. Many of the younger officials seem to think that coffee will keep them sharp, but if you drink too much of it you want to go to the bathroom all the time. If I had gone to the bathroom during that match at Wimbledon, keeping Mahut waiting for several minutes before he served to stay in the tournament yet again, and he had then got broken, I would have got the blame. After Isner had won, the first thing he said to me was: 'How did you do that, sitting there in the chair all that time? What's your secret?" 

2. Andre Agassi teased the All England Club officials. There was great interest in what the Las Vegan would wear for the 1991 Championships. He had skipped a few Wimbledons, because he thought he didn't like grass, and also because the All England Club's rules meant that he wasn't allowed to wear his denim shorts, his hot pink lycra shorts and his neon green and blue shirts. For his opening match, he walked on court wearing an all-white tracksuit. He peeled that off, to reveal an all-white shirt, an all-white pair of shorts, all-white socks and all-white shoes. 

3. Jeff Tarango lost his cool and walked off court. At the 1995 Championships, the American hit what he thought was an ace, but the serve was called 'out'. The crowd barracked him, and when he told them to be quiet, he was given a code violation by the umpire, Bruno Rebeuh. So Tarango told him: "You're the most corrupt official in the game. I'm not playing any more." By picking up his rackets and walking off the court, Tarango defaulted himself. As Rebeuh walked back to the umpires' locker-room, he was slapped across the face by Benedicte Tarango, Jeff's wife. "If Jeff had done it, he would have been put out of tennis," Benedicte said. But, even without slapping the official, Jeff Tarango was banned from competing at Wimbledon the following summer.

4. John McEnroe spewed at an umpire: "You can not be serious." Was McEnroe ever as angry with an official as he was with umpire Ted James during a first-round match against Tom Gullikson at the 1981 Championships? There had even been tension before the match when James had said to McEnroe: "I'm Scottish, so we're not going to have any problems, are we?" To which McEnroe responded: "I'm Irish." As well as shouting that famous line at the official, McEnroe informed the umpire, "you are the absolute pits of the world" and there were heated discussions between the American and the man in the chair. "At the time it didn't seem anything out of the ordinary. My father always said: 'Look, if you're going to say something to an umpire don't curse bluntly'. I thought I wasn't going to get into trouble, so at the time I didn't think it was anything out of the ordinary. I'd already put a lot of pressure on myself because I felt as though I should have won Wimbledon by then. This was the first round, and there were a lot of pent-up nerves."

5. Greg Rusedski lost his temper after a fan called a ball 'out'. In a match against Andy Roddick at the 2003 Championships, Rusedski was incensed that the umpire would not allow a point to be replayed – a spectator had called 'out' even though Roddick's shot had landed on the baseline. Rusedski let the official know that he wasn't happy: "I can't do anything if the crowd ------- calls it. Absolutely ------- ridiculous – at least replay the point. ------- ridiculous, ------- ridiculous, frigging ridiculous. Some ------ in the crowd changes the whole match and you allow it to happen. Well, well done, well done, well done. Absolutely ----."  

6. Andrew Jarrett, the tournament referee, has suggested that players are much better behaved now than they were in the 1980s. "I was playing in the 1980s, so I'm very aware of what was going on at the time. We were not as well behaved as the current players. The code of conduct has made a big difference. Back then if you were railing away against a chair umpire, it might get televised and that was about it. Whereas now, if a player is out of line, there is the code of conduct to help the match to progress to a good finish as opposed to an unsatisfactory finish." 

7. John McEnroe, in a spiky mood during the semi-finals of the 1981 Championships, informed the umpire, Wing-Commander George Grimes, that he was "a disgrace to mankind – lower than dirt".

8. Alan Mills, a former tournament referee at the Championships, became known in some countries as 'The Rain Man' as he generally only appeared on screen during wet weather (this was before a sliding roof was built over Centre Court). 

9. Fred Perry felt aggrieved after an incident involving an official and a club tie. Perry, the son of a Labour MP, was lying in the bath in the locker-room having just beaten Australia's Jack Crawford in the 1934 final to win his first Wimbledon title. Perry heard an All England Club official say this to his beaten opponent: "We're only sorry that this was one day when the best man did not win." When he got out of the bath, Perry saw that his club tie – champions were given membership – had been left draped over the back of his chair. There had been no ceremony, and certainly no warm welcome. Still, the All England Club is very different now. 

10. Officials had no choice but to default Tim Henman after he inadvertently fired a ball at a ball girl. Before Henman found fame as a singles player at the All England Club, he caused a scene as a doubles player when he and his partner Jeremy Bates became the first players of the modern era to be defaulted from the Wimbledon Championships. In the summer of 1995, Henman thrashed a ball away and accidentally hit a ball girl on the ear. She fell to the ground, burst into tears and a doctor had to be called. 


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