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Tennis Player, Innovator Mike Davies Dies at 79

After being inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Mike Davies, left, thanks Butch Buchholz, right, chairman of the New Haven Open at Yale, and Mark Stenning, CEO of the hall, in New Haven, Conn., Aug. 24, 2014.

The tennis world is mourning the loss of Mike Davies, a former British Davis Cup player-turned-administrator who died Tuesday at the age of 79.

The International Tennis Federation said Davies died "after a battle with illness."

Davies was the top-ranked British player in the 1950s and had a career record in Davis Cup play of 24-13 from 1955 to 1960.

He also was a significant figure in ushering the sport into the professional era in the 1960s and ’70s.

Born in Wales in the mid-1930s, Davies reached the fourth round at Wimbledon as an 18-year-old and was men's doubles runner-up in 1960. But then he turned professional, which at the time meant he couldn't play at any of tennis' traditional tournaments.

As tennis commercialized in the late 1960s, Davies played a major role in running the rebel World Championship Tennis circuit, funded by the oil magnate Lamar Hunt, which challenged the traditional tour. He became one of those dynamic characters the tennis establishment hated.

In his time, he headed both the Association of Tennis Professionals and the International Tennis Federation. But perhaps his greatest claim to fame is as the man who cemented the 90-second time limit for players to change ends after every two games, and the replacement of the white tennis ball by the more TV-friendly yellow ball. He also introduced the 30-second time limit between points.

Davies was a former ITF general manager and marketing director.

"Mike played an important part in the development of the ITF as an organization and was key in the implementation of a centralized commercial rights model for sponsorship and TV," said Juan Margets, the organization's chief operating officer. He said his predecessor "used his role as general manager to help the growth of the ITF."