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Working at Wimbledon
Even after hanging up his racquet, Brian Partridge from Cheltenham made it on to a court at Wimbledon...and stayed there for over a decade! He shares his experience of working at the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world.
Brian watches Tim Henman at Wimbledon 1997
I was a linesman and umpire at Wimbledon between 1992 and 2002. In my umpiring career, I spent a total of 542 days on court, umpired 533 matches and was a linesman at Wimbledon for 116 days.
In 1988, I was 45 years old and playing for Gloucestershire at Veteran level. I was qualified as an Elementary Coach but my knees were starting to send me some painful messages.
So, I began looking for other ways of staying involved in tennis and I thought of umpiring.
I attended a half day seminar in Telford in July 1988, taking my 18-year-old son along with me for company.
They were clearly more interested in recruiting him than me but they got me instead!
There then followed three years of building up my experience by making myself available for just about anything within reasonable travelling distance.
By 1992 I felt that I was ready for "the big one" so I put my name forward.
On Monday 22nd June 1992, I made my debut on Court 4 for a singles match involving Mark Petchey. Later that day we covered a match involving Patrick McEnroe, John's brother.
In 1994, on the Tuesday of the second week, I actually umpired my first matches at Wimbledon – a girls' singles and a boys' singles.
The main problem was the pronunciation of the players' names, even for a gifted linguist like myself! An A level in Spanish and Latin does not equip you for names like A'O!
It wasn't until Wednesday 2nd July 1997 that I was on Court 2. On the Friday, I made my debut on Centre Court for the men's semi-finals.
Walking on to Centre Court for the first time, I felt so proud of achieving far more than I had dreamed of but this was almost matched by the fear of getting it wrong in front of all of those cameras.
The first match was Pete Sampras versus Todd Woodbridge. My second match on Centre Court was Cedric Pioline versus Michael Stich.
The final Sunday was amazing. I was in one of two teams allocated to Court 1 for the day and we covered the Ladies' Doubles finals.
In 2001 I did a base line for a doubles match involving John Newcombe and Tony Roche against Ilie Nastase and Tom Okker.
At one point in the match, Nastase called out to Newcombe "Hey John, make sure you don't get to the net before your serve!".
After Wimbledon 2001, I decided that the next year would be my last.
My last match ever at Wimbledon was a boys' doubles involving a certain Andy Murray and David Brewer against a pair from the Far East.
last updated: 24/06/2009 at 14:57
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