David Mercer, the sports commentator and 1984 Wimbledon final umpire, passed away suddenly on Wednesday aged 70. He was part of the Wimbledon commentary team for 35 years and, from 1994 until 2019, was also emcee at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, an ATP 500-level event.
In an 11-year career as a chair umpire, he took charge at Wimbledon of the 1983 men’s doubles final and the 1984 singles final. He also officiated at numerous other tournaments — including at The Queen’s Club — and Davis Cup ties.
As a freelance sports broadcaster for BBC Wales from 1979, by the time he umpired the 1984 Wimbledon final, he was in line to become one of the first two professional touring umpires. But as he officiated over John McEnroe’s 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Jimmy Connors, he’d already accepted a full-time job with the BBC as a sports correspondent.
He joined BBC Television in 1992 and remains the only person to have umpired a Wimbledon final and subsequently commentated on the finals for both radio and television. McEnroe, who later worked with Mercer as co-commentators for the BBC, once said: “My God, they’re giving me an umpire!”
Mercer also worked for BT Sport and Eurosport, co-founded the Tennis Radio Network, and reported from every major tennis tournament. He was a former chairman of the Lawn Tennis Writers’ Association and member of the Sports Council for Wales.
Mercer won the Welsh junior doubles title in 1968 and captained the tennis team at Nottingham University, where he graduated with a law degree. He began practising in Swansea, south Wales, in 1973, the year he first umpired at The Championships, and ran his own law firm for nine years.
Mercer was almost elected to Parliament in 1979, as a Conservative candidate in the safe Labour seat of Swansea West. He came within 401 votes, nearly winning it on the tide that swept Margaret Thatcher to power, second to long-time MP Alan Williams. During the 1983 General Election, he assisted in the Prime Minister’s private office.
A keen sportsman, who also commentated on badminton and rowing for the BBC at Olympic and Commonwealth Games, he enjoyed going to the theatre with his wife, Sue, who survives him, along with one daughter, Caroline, and two step-children, Liz and Chris.
David Mercer, solicitor, sports commentator and umpire, born April 1950, died 27 August 2020