Alan Mills:“The suspension she (Hingis) is serving is totally wrong.
Martina Hingis should not be banned
Jun 10 2008
by Dominic King, Liverpool Echo
AS one of the most respected figures in Wimbledon’s history, Alan Mills’ views on the most thorny subjects in tennis are always worth listening to.
During the 23 years he was tournament referee at SW19, Mills became someone the players trusted, the man from Formby’s easy going manner, coupled with his ability to make the right decisions at the right times, meant he got to know the top performers well.
So it is significant, then, to hear his opinions on Martina Hingis.
When it was announced earlier this year that the five-time Grand Slam winner would be one of the main attractions at the Liverpool international, there were some rumblings of disquiet.
Hingis, after all, had just been banned from competitive tennis for two years after she provided a positive test for cocaine at Wimbledon last summer. In Liverpool’s Capital of Culture year critics wondered what message that sent out.
But Hingis has maintained her innocence throughout: “I have tested positive but I have never taken drugs. I would personally be terrified of taking drugs,” she said at the time of the ban, and she will be heartened that Mills feels the same.
What’s more, he believes the tussles between her and Jana Novotna at Calderstones Park this week – a repeat of the 1997 Wimbledon final, which Hingis won – will be a highlight and hopes the ‘Swiss Miss’ will become a frequent visitor to these parts in the future.
“I’m delighted to see Martina here,” said Mills, who first officiated at Calderstones in 2006. “Having retired twice under difficult circumstances, it’s great to see her back.
“Hopefully, she will play a lot more of this type of tennis.
“The suspension she is serving is totally wrong. Somewhere down the line, something has happened.
“I simply don’t believe she took anything. I really don’t. There’s no reason for her to have done it.
“She’d come back and was doing reasonably well. So it will be good to see her again. And with Jana coming as well it adds a different dimension.
“It will be great to catch up with her, too. I used to have a great rapport with the players and I couldn’t just give this up.”
Which is why he is looking forward to the next few days.
Casting his eye over the programme, he concurs with the view of tournament director Anders Borg that this year’s event has the potential to be the best yet.
Of course, he will also be looking anxiously to the skies, but even if there are showers, they will not dampen this sprightly 72-year-old’s enthusiasm.
“If the weather co-operates, you have probably got the best feast of tennis that you could have anywhere – the whole spectrum,” said Mills.
“We’ll have 5,000 juniors coming through the doors to attend coaching clinics. You then have the inter-city junior matches, the ATP and WTA players playing serious tennis and, to top it all, you have Mansour Bahrami providing the entertainment.
“You cannot fail to find something that will interest you.
“This is my third year here and I am amazed at how things have developed.
“To see the workrate and effort that goes into getting the complex ready is phenomenal.”
There may have been some disappointment that 2006 winner Xavier Malisse pulled out of the Men’s event recently, but Mills does not see the Belgian’s absence taking any gloss off the tournament.
He is particularly looking forward to seeing 15-year-old Australian Bernard Tomic in action and, with Borg so adept at unearthing players of vast potential, Mills expects the International to go from strength to strength.
“From what I have heard he is going to be a star,” said Mills. “But this is what happens here.
“The players love to come. If you could guarantee good weather, you would get a lot more players crying to come here.
“You can get as much grass court practice as you need and want. If, for example, you go to Queen’s, your practice is restricted because there are lots of matches on and you can’t practice at Wimbledon until a week before.
“I take my hat off to the groundstaff. What they produce in such a limited time is quite incredible.
“Looking at it, it’s in great condition. If the forecast is good and we can get some heat on the courts, they will get better and better.”