BBC commentator and former tennis umpire David Mercer has died aged 70.
Mercer, who umpired the 1984 Wimbledon final between John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, was part of the BBC’s commentary team for the grass-court Grand Slam for the past 35 years.
He started his sports broadcasting career in 1979 after winning a BBC Wales competition, becoming a full-time broadcaster five years later.
Mercer was appointed the corporation’s tennis correspondent in 1990.
He is the only person to have umpired a Wimbledon men’s singles final and also commentated on them for both radio and television.
He also commentated on badminton at Olympic and Commonwealth Games, as well as on the Boat Race.
BBC director of sport Barbara Slater said: “We are saddened and shocked by this unexpected news.
“David Mercer has been one of the great voices of British broadcasting with his distinguished career stretching over 40 years, working on the BBC’s Wimbledon coverage for 35 of those years as well as umpiring at the highest level.
“He was also a highly valued member of the BBC’s Olympic commentary team. He will be sorely missed and our thoughts are with his colleagues, family and friends.”
A qualified solicitor and a former parliamentary candidate, Mercer was also a talented tennis player as a youngster, winning the Welsh junior doubles title in 1968.
His love of tennis – and an acknowledgment that he was not going to make it to the top as a player – took him into umpiring.
Recalling his first experiences of officiating at Wimbledon in 1973, he said he had received no formal training beforehand “and yet on my first day there I umpired a men’s singles match, and on my second called lines on the Centre Court”.
He wrote in a piece for the BBC Sport website in 2001 that one of the most common questions he got asked was ‘What was it like to umpire McEnroe?’
His reply? “Challenging and interesting, but not as difficult as dealing with Connors or [Ilie] Nastase.”
The Lawn Tennis Association said it was saddened to hear of the passing of “one of our sport’s most iconic and distinguished voices”.
“His immense passion for the sport came across in his commentary. Our thoughts are with his family and friends,” said Scott Lloyd, the governing body’s chief executive.
‘It’s some achievement’
BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller:
To have umpired a Wimbledon final, and then to have commentated on one for both BBC television and radio, is some achievement.
I’m a little too young to remember much about that Connors/McEnroe final of 1984, but I do remember the warmth in David’s voice as he took such a prominent role in the BBC’s tennis coverage in subsequent years.
He was always very encouraging to me, as I discovered more and more about his early working life.
David was a qualified solicitor, and recently only too happy to give up his time to help us with the far from glamorous task of redrafting the constitution of the Lawn Tennis Writers’ Association.
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