An email conversation with Andrew Jarrett: 'You need to defuse rather than inflame situations'

Refereeing a top-draw Wimbledon; Not letting weather rain on the parade; Taking a set off McEnroe ... then losing
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The Independent Online

As Wimbledon referee you must be permanently worried about the weather. Have you been studying the long-range forecast for the last few weeks? I actually had my first look on Friday. I steadfastly refused to look at it before then. I won't worry about the weather because there's absolutely no point. The only things you should worry about are things you have an influence over.

Your first public duty was to make the draw. Wimbledon uses numbers pulled out of a bag, whereas some other tournaments use a computer. Has Wimbledon ever thought of changing? We have certain ways of doing things, just as the other Grand Slam tournaments have theirs. The numbered discs we use are so old that even senior club members don't know where they come from. The bag we draw them out of looks like an old ping-pong ball bag. Its got a big number three on it. I haven't got a clue where it comes from.

How much tennis will you watch? Generally only the ends of sets and matches. Usually the only matches I can sit down and watch are the singles finals at the end of the fortnight, when we have relatively little tennis going on elsewhere.

What hours do you work? I'm generally in by about 8.30am. The first couple of hours are usually quiet but it gets very busy once play starts at 12. We can't get out the final order of play for the next day until the last match is finished, which is often around 9pm. There are always issues arising out of the day's play so the chances of getting away by 10.30 are pretty slim.

How did you become a referee? My predecessor but one was Fred Hoyles. I was still a player when he asked me one day, completely out of the blue: "Have you ever thought of being a referee?" My reply was: "No, not yet." But something must have stuck in my mind because I joined what was then the Referees' Society, though I never used to do anything other than pay the annual £5 subscription. Eventually I did start to get involved. I began refereeing at some local British junior tournaments and gradually worked my way up. There's a set list of qualifications and exams to pass, which can come as a bit of a shock when you're my age. The main thing they test you on is the rules. I started to help Alan Mills, my predecessor, several years ago. I did the qualifying tournament at Roehampton for four years and I took over the full job last year.

What are the main qualities you need? It's useful to have played and coached because I still bump into a lot of people I knew from those days. You need to be organised, patient and to be able to defuse rather than inflame situations. Above all else you need to be fair.

How far do you accommodate players' requests over the order of play? You consider all the requests, which are usually linked to a health, fitness or travel problem. Provided you think their request is a valid one you try to take a humane view. David Nalbandian even asked us to schedule a match last year so that he could watch Argentina in the World Cup, which we were able to do.

The leading British players always seem to play at prime time. How far does TV dictate the schedule? It doesn't dictate, but the television companies are an important user group and part of the tennis world. Although there are thousands of people watching matches in person, there are also millions watching on TV around the world. Television makes requests and we take them on board when we can. But we wouldn't do anything to accommodate anybody if we felt it was unfair to a player.

How much of your year does the job occupy? I'm on site for six weeks - four beforehand plus the two during the Championships - but there isn't a day during the year when I don't think about Wimbledon. I have regular contact with the club through the year and quite often have to come in for meetings. I do other refereeing work at Davis Cup and Fed Cup matches and a bit of work with the ATP and LTA.

You reached No 140 in the world as a singles player and No 83 in doubles. How good were you? I was more of a doubles player than a singles player. I was a draw filler. The stars of those days were people like Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. When they won championships they had to beat people in the first and second round and it was people like me. More people probably remember Anders Jarryd. We actually played each other in a King's Cup match in Cardiff. The umpire was delighted that he had to call us "Great Britain" and "Sweden" rather than Jarrett and Jarryd.

You took a set off McEnroe in an indoor tournament in Milan. Tell us about it. McEnroe was in a different street to me as a player but he was very nice to me that day. I think he'd flown in from America that morning. I'd got through qualifying, so I'd been there for four days and had had plenty of time to practise and get used to the surface. I won the first set. I remember sitting in my chair at the change of ends and noticed Jimmy Connors and others sitting in the players' boxes. I thought to myself: "This is wrong. It should be the other way round. I should be sitting in the players' box watching him." I actually felt I played just as well in the second and third sets. The difference was that he took off.

Did you ever have any success at Wimbledon? I won a couple of singles matches, but I think my most memorable match was a doubles with Buster Mottram. We beat Mark Edmondson and Sherwood Stewart 10-8 in the final set and went on to reach the third round.

Do you still play? Not as much as I would like to. One legacy of playing a lot when I was young is that I now have dodgy knees. But I still love hitting a ball. Nothing quite replaces the feeling of timing a ball beautifully. It's very addictive.

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