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OBITUARY: Frank Hammond

Frank Hammond is generally regarded as the world's first professional tennis umpire. He moved over from the amateur ranks after tennis became open in 1977.

A man of rotund girth, which inspired his book The Big Man Speaks, he always looked too heavy for the chair but his firm control earned the respect of players and officials alike.

Hammond was an autocratic person who always followed the rules, but this backfired on him in the US Open of 1979 when he took the match between Ilie Nastase (Romania) and John McEnroe (US), which had been built up like a prize fight. And that is how it turned out.

He disqualified the Romanian after docking a penalty game, then put the clock on him to restart in 30 seconds. Nastase failed to start, in the commotion, and was disqualified. Pandemonium broke out and among some of the ugliest scenes ever witnessed on a tennis court drunken fans began to fight.

Hammond did not help matters when no one switched off the microphone and he was heard to say, "These are not tennis fans; they are just junk!" He was removed from the chair and Nastase was re-instated. Hammond had followed the rules and his sacking was generally regarded as a crowd appeasement.

A graduate of Columbia University, New York, where he took a degree in Business Administration, Hammond officiated for some 40 years. He worked with handicapped children and was also on the board of Wheelchair Tennis. His hobbies were Dixieland music and bridge.

Bill Edwards

Frank Hammond, tennis umpire: born New York 16 October 1930; died New York 23 November 1995.