Scottish official celebrates 40 years of service at Wimbledon
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It’s every tennis fan’s dream to grace the famous turf of Wimbledon. When Mike Ross was plucked out of the crowd of an amateur tennis match at Newlands LTC more than four decades ago, he could hardly have imagined that it would eventually lead him to the All England Club’s showpiece event.
Having been ever present since the 1980s, Mike has called some of the most monumental moments that the Wimbledon crowds have ever experienced. From officiating as Chair Umpire of the Over 35’s Men’s Final between the Gullikson twins and Australia’s Mark Edmondson and Kim Warwick to playing apart in a match which many regard as the greatest of all time, Mike has cast his eyes over every blade of grass on the Wimbledon courts since his inaugural appearance.
40 Years Of Continuous Service
This year, Mike is celebrating a remarkable 40 years of continuous service as a referee at the renowned competition, following an extraordinary route into the sport whilst in his late twenties.
Speaking about how his interest in officiating was sparked, Mike explained: “I was actually spectating at a tournament in Glasgow and there was a couple of individuals from Sunderland in the cafeteria who were umpires. They queried if I was interested in tennis and asked me if I would like to have a shot calling a line. It was one of those unbelievable moments that would never happen nowadays.
“Following the match, the pair asked if I was interested in continuing my involvement and they subsequently put me in touch with the officiating lead in Scotland, so that’s how it all started.”
From a chance meeting in the Newlands cafe, Mike’s desire to officiate gained momentum and he decided to continue learning his trade across Scotland’s courts, which provided an interesting introduction to the role. One of his early opportunities arose at Bell's Sports Centre in Perth, which was synonymous with the nation’s competition scene at the time.
Opportune Platform For Progression
Describing the experience, he joked: “I was sitting on a chair on top of a table, trying to call the lines but there was about five different sports courts marked on the floor – badminton, netball, volleyball, basketball and tennis – so it wasn’t the easiest job.”
Mike’s Scottish tennis education provided the opportune platform for progression and he rapidly found a path which led to the iconic Wimbledon gates.
Mike added: “I started doing local Scottish events and even went down to England, before joining the association. I got the opportunity, like all other members, to apply for Wimbledon and was lucky enough to be selected.”
Forty years down the line from receiving his first Wimbledon call, Mike is now steeped in the competition’s history and traditions. Despite being all familiar with the umpire routine – which includes receiving a set shift the night before and ensuring that he’s courtside a precise 12 minutes before each match - the Wimbledon fortnight has a unique appeal which entices Mike and several of his Scottish colleagues back year on year.
One of his many highlights includes calling as a line judge at the Men’s Singles Final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in 2008: a match which now holds a place in Wimbledon folklore and is regarded as the ‘greatest match ever’ by many fans of a certain generation.
Mike has experienced it all across his 40-year tenure, operating in both Chair and line judge roles whilst brushing shoulders with many of the game’s greats along the way. However, he remains unfazed by the countless icons that have stepped between the lines in front of him and always ensures that his eyes are kept firmly on the ball.
Mike illustrated: “People think that you get into officiating to see tennis superstars but you don’t really get the chance as you’re too busy concentrating on the ball and the line that you are calling!”.
Mike’s 40 years on court sets the benchmark for many budding officials who have been inspired to follow in his footsteps.
Satisfying To Look Back
Speaking about his motivation to keep participating, he said: “The most rewarding thing from a personal point of view is coming off a match and feeling that you’ve done your best and put in a good performance. It’s satisfying to look back at the end of the Wimbledon fortnight and realise that you’ve performed at a high enough level to deserve to be there.”
Describing his Wimbledon adventures as purely a “hobby”, Mike’s passion for the game is as evident today as it was four decades ago. Alongside holding full-time jobs, Mike’s dedication to officiating always shone through as he travelled across the UK to follow his passion.
Speaking about his incredible run officiating on the Wimbledon courts, he added: “It’s just been a tremendous experience - I never imagined when I started off that I would reach this level. I’m just pleased in many ways that I’ve been able to achieve this and actually quite proud of myself.”
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