ANOTHER link between the old days of amateur tennis and the modern commercialised professional sport it has become has been broken with the death of David Mills, former secretary of the All England Club.
Mills was secretary when, under the guidance of Herman David, Open tennis was introduced at the Wimbledon championships in 1968. As the club secretary he played his part in the revolution yet curiously enough Mills was not a tennis player. His sport was golf and he was a member of the Royal Wimbledon Club.
Mills came from a military background. He was the youngest son of Maj-Gen Sir Arthur Mills and in true military tradition was educated at Wellington College. He was commissioned into the Indian Army with the 9th Gurkhas in 1939 and seconded to the Parachute Regiment in 1944. He served on the North-West Frontier and in Burma, retiring in 1948.
Mills went straight from the Army to Wimbledon as assistant secretary, a move that was in keeping with the regimental background of Wimbledon officials. In 1963 he succeeded Lt-Col ADC Macaulay as secretary and held the post until his retirement in 1979.
It was during this period, in 1968, that Mills helped to steer Open tennis through, after Wimbledon had given the International Federation an ultimatum. The previous year after the championships, Wimbledon had experimented with a professional tournament which proved so popular that Open tennis became a fait accompli. Although Mills was not a tennis player himself his position at Wimbledon opened the way for membership at Queen's Club, and the international clubs in Britain, the United States, Australia, South Africa, and the Netherlands.
He never lost complete touch with tennis despite health difficulties in his retirement years. He made his occasional trips to the championships and staff functions but his latter days were not happy ones. Mills had a leg amputated and became wheelchair-bound. He finished his days in the old soldiers' home, the Star and Garter at Wimbledon.