Derbyshire's Wimbledon Referee

PUBLISHED: 11:16 14 June 2012 | UPDATED: 21:29 20 February 2013

Derbyshire's Wimbledon Referee

Derbyshire's Wimbledon Referee

Andrew Jarrett will return to the limelight this June when he again referees the world's oldest and, many believe, greatest tennis tournament. Ashley Franklin reports...

Wimbledon: Its one of the premier sports events of the year and the oldest tennis tournament in the world. Its also the most revered: for any top tennis player, Wimbledon is the one to win, and the real prospect of Andy Murray winning this year will once again enthral the nation.

However, Murray wont be the only Brit at Wimbledon feeling the pressure. Since 2006, Derbyshire man Andrew Jarrett has had the ultimate responsibility for the smooth running of the tournament. He is the Wimbledon referee and, as is officially stated: His decision on matters is final.

During Wimbledon fortnight, Andrew along with his staff of 15 will be working from early in the morning until late at night to schedule the 700-plus matches on the 19 courts for the 128 players. His responsibility also extends to recording and displaying results, and allocating the duties of the 300-plus umpires and line judges.

There is a host of other issues to deal with, especially if it rains or there is a problem with any player on or off court. Andrews predecessor Alan Mills famously had to deal with John McEnroes legendary outbursts at Wimbledon. Andrew had his own encounter with Superbrat: as a player, in 1979. I recall it well: I was at BBC Radio Derby and interviewed Andrew on the line from Italy following his first round encounter with McEnroe in the Milan Indoor tournament.

These were the days when British tennis had little to shout about. Andrew, aged 21, had just turned pro, having been Britains leading junior. He quickly became Britains Number Two, but the wider reality was that he was 140 in the world. This was probably what excited us so much at Radio Derby when he played McEnroe: the 20-year-old American was the most promising player on the planet later that year he won his first Grand Slam, the US Open and, in that Milan Outdoor, Andrew Jarrett won... the first set.

McEnroe went on to win the match, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2. Andrew played professionally until 1983, with his highest achievements coming as a doubles player he and partner Jonathan Smith triumphed at the Auckland ATP in 1982 and reached the final of the Australian Open Doubles in 1978.

He then moved on to coaching, preparing the GB teams for the Olympics in 1988 and 1992, and working with the Federation and Wightman Cup teams. However, it was while he was still playing that the renowned Wimbledon referee Fred Hoyles stopped Andrew to ask: Have you ever thought of being a referee? Although the reply was: No, not yet, that question stayed in Andrews head.

Looking back it was a slightly odd thing to ask, recalls Andrew. It would be nice to think he spotted something about me that made me suitable for the role but the reality, more likely, is that Fred was on some committee and charged with trying to boost officiating numbers from the group of current players for the future!

Something stuck, though, because although I became a professional coach, I also joined the Referees Society and, after several years of coaching, I eventually began refereeing at local British junior tournaments and gradually worked my way up.

Working ones way up was a rigorous procedure which required exams and qualifications. Exams come as a shock when youre my age, remarks Andrew. The main thing you are tested on is the rules and I was amazed at the complexity of the tennis rulebook. Also, I had to role-play to test out how I would handle difficult situations both on and off court. I think tennis watchers would be surprised how much thought, effort and training goes into the work done by officials; thats including chair and line umpires as well as referees like myself.

Eventually, Andrew came to help his Wimbledon predecessor Alan Mills, officiating the qualifying tournament for four years before taking over. Although the Championship is over a fortnight, Andrews job demands much more: I work six weeks full time at the Club, which is three weeks build up before the one week of qualifying and the two weeks of the Main Draw. However, barely a day goes by during the year without some kind of contact about Wimbledon, and there are lots of meetings, ones that look back, others that plan ahead. We go into extraordinary detail, which is probably why Wimbledon produces the result it does each year.

Once the tournament is under way, Andrews day lasts from early morning to late at night. There are so many decisions needed each day, Andrew points out, from the public ones such as the use of the court covers or the Centre Court roof plus perhaps stopping for bad light, to those behind-the-scenes involving the daily Rubik Cube of scheduling for the following day or necessary schedule changes due to lengthy matches or bad weather on the day in progress. Also, the referee needs to lead a team of officials and be the chief point of contact for all officiating issues with players, their entourages, the media and the hosting venue. Its challenging but rewarding.

With so much to consider, deduce and decide, its obvious that key to being a good referee is being organised, patient and clear-headed, as Andrew confirms: You need to stay calm and appear relaxed even when the brain is working furiously to analyse situations and produce solutions. Good personnel skills are essential to mediate as well as the ability to troubleshoot. Its also vital to be able to defuse rather than inflame situations. Above all else, you need to be fair.

Andrew believes he has a strong sense of fairness through having played and coached himself. It means I understands the issues that players face, he states.

This Belper-born lad seemed destined to be a player: Andrews mother Joy played club tennis, his father Len used to coach beginners, and his two elder brothers Roger and Clive were both county players. As a five year old, I used to tag along with my brothers down to Crewe Street and pester the life out of anyone who would hit balls at me, recalls Andrew. He obviously found plenty of obliging hitters: by the age of eight, Andrew was being described as a tennis prodigy.

However, at Ashgate School on Ashbourne Road, he also developed a love for football and cricket and, after moving to Nottingham, he played for Nottingham Boys Under 11s in both sports. As Andrew explains, had he not been a Derby County fan, his career trajectory might have been different: I was told I was good enough to play for Forest one day, and it was then that I knew I had to play tennis!

Andrew went on to play over 100 tennis matches for Derbyshire and professes that he particularly loved playing as part of a team. He also favoured playing in doubles rather than singles, attaining a high of World No 85 in 1983. So what was it about playing with a partner that appeared to double Andrews chances of winning?

I seemed to have a natural appreciation of the different angles and shots required to keep opponents off balance, and that worked more effectively in doubles rather than singles.

Andrews memories of the professional circuit call up the hard work put in on a daily, weekly and yearly basis and having to constantly deal with injuries, general stiffness and pain. The reward was the travel and, above all, the big matches on the big stages.

Of those big matches, Andrew recalls a Paris Indoor Doubles Final against Ilie Nastase and Yannick Noah and there was a singular Wimbledon Doubles triumph alongside Buster Mottram in beating Grand Slam winners Mark Edmondson and Sherwood Stewart to reach the third round. And what does he now recall of the McEnroe match 33 years ago?

After winning the first set, I sat in my chair during the change of ends and noticed greats like Jimmy Connors and Ilie Nastase sitting in the players box with me thinking "this is wrong; I should be sitting in the box watching them, not them watching me." I felt I continued to play pretty well but McEnroe just took off and showed his special ability.

As Andrew admits, he was one of many draw fillers on the circuit: The stars of the day like Bjorg, McEnroe and Connors won championships by beating people like me in either the first or second round.

There are plenty of British draw fillers at Wimbledon this year who will succumb in the early rounds, but there is one who could win it: Andy Murray. Does Andrew see a first British Wimbledon champion since Fred Perry in 1936?

Yes, Andy could win it, declares Andrew. He is a leading player and leading players win major championships.

However, British tennis has been under fire for producing so few world class players even in the years before Andrew was playing nearly 30 years ago. Andrew takes a measured and pragmatic view on this: Where you come from is an accident of birth over which you have no control. Becoming a sportsman is about making the most of your talent. You have complete control over this. Its a very individual process. Players are responsible for themselves only and must take the necessary decisions to make themselves better tomorrow than they are today. That applies to every player whether they are from Britain or any other country.

Having said that, I feel that British tennis will always be under fire. If it produces nine out of the top ten, then someone will be asking why its not all ten!

Andrew only rarely gets to play himself because of dodgy knees but he still meets up with friends in and around Derbyshire who are still connected with tennis. We are lucky in our county in that there remains a great spirit and support for those in the County team, observes Andrew. Although he now lives in north Leicestershire, Andrew loves to walk the Peak and is a long-time season ticket holder at Pride Park I was a teenager in the Clough era so it inspired a lifelong passion. He also watches a lot of lower league football and belongs to Club 92, a term used by those who have visited or are intending to every football league ground.

However, for Andrew there can be no more coveted a sporting venue than Wimbledon, especially with its long-held traditions which call for whites-only dress and no court advertising. When Andrew comes to make the draw, he will pull the same numbered brass discs out of a bag. Even senior Club members cant remember when they were first used, reveals Andrew.

Wimbledon has managed to evolve without feeling the need to follow every new trend, remarks Andrew. The respect for the players, the sport and the traditions of the sport mean that while it needs to remain completely modern in terms of facilities and prize money, and it does, it has also maintained its links with the past in a way that now makes it unique. It is truly the cutting edge of tradition!

And how will he feel once Wimbledon is over for another year? I will feel pretty drained, comes the reply. In the last few days, everyone in the office is running on adrenalin, and when the last point is played theres a great feeling of satisfaction, relief and elation that another chapter in the famous Wimbledon history has been completed, and hopefully without major incidents to detract from the main story: that of the finest players performing on the finest stage.

The Wimbledon Championships begin on 25th June.

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