When Alan Mills, who died on Thursday aged 88, appeared at a corner of Centre Court or Court No. 1, walkie-talkie in hand looking skyward, you knew rain was imminent at Wimbledon.

For almost 30 years, Mills was part of the very fabric of The Championships, first as assistant referee to Fred Hoyles (1977-1982), then as the gentleman farmer’s successor in 1983. Mills, who earned the nickname "Rain Man," stepped down at SW19 in 2005, after a record 23 years, but he continued to act as referee at some ATP, WTA and ATP Champions Tour events until 2015.

With an impeccable character and integrity, Mills opened his office door to every player at the All England Club and earned universal respect. If there was a problem, he quickly nipped it in the bud and treated every player equally -- from a World No. 1 to the 128th player in the draw. He was referee at the qualifying event in 1977, when he was first called out onto court by 18-year-old John McEnroe, who qualified and subsequently reached the semifinals on his debut. It was the first of many meetings.

Gerry Armstrong, Wimbledon referee (2020-2023) and ATP Supervisor, said: "Alan was a great influence on myself and many officials around the world. He was always helpful and encouraging during the years we worked together at Wimbledon and on the ATP Tour. It was a great honor to work alongside him in professional tennis for many decades.”

Mills, a top junior from Lancashire, won the Royal Air Force Tennis Championship twice, represented Great Britain in three Davis Cup ties and made five singles and 14 appearances in the Wimbledon mixed doubles with his wife, international table tennis player Jill Rook, whom he married in 1960.

Mills was a Wimbledon doubles semifinalist in 1966 with Mark Cox and was the first Englishman to beat Rod Laver in 1961. In playing retirement, Mills coached in the United States and at the All England Club.

In 2005, he wrote his autobiography "Lifting the Covers," detailing his playing career and association with the All England Club. He was awarded an OBE in 1996 and a CBE in 2006. Mills and his wife have two children, Barry and Penny.