To mark the famous stadium’s centenary, Wimbledon invited a host of former champions to watch the day’s tennis – which is now taking place on the middle Sunday, previously a rest day – and they were welcomed onto the grass to rapturous cheers from the crowd.
Sue Barker, presenting her final Wimbledon for the BBC, took on hosting duties alongside John McEnroe as some of tennis’ biggest names were invited onto the court.
The likes of Andy Murray, Pat Cash, reigning men’s champion Novak Djokovic, Billie Jean King, Venus Williams, Bjorn Borg, Rod Laver and many more were all in attendance, while the celebrations even saw Cliff Richard give another rendition of Summer Holiday.
But the biggest cheer of the afternoon was reserved for Federer, who has been unable to take part at the tournament this year for the first time in 23 years – since his debut in 1999.
The 40-year-old has been struggling with a knee problem which required surgery after last year’s tournament and he is still working his way back to fitness, though he hopes the next time he is back at Wimbledon he will be wearing his whites rather than a suit.
Asked about his memories of playing on Centre Court – and whether he would be back playing on it again – Federer said: ‘I’ve been lucky enough to play a lot of matches on this court, it feels awkward to be here today in a different type of role!
‘But it’s great to be here with all the other champions, and this court has given me my biggest wins, my biggest loses.
‘One of my highlights was walking out here in 2001 with Pete Sampras – who I’d like to give a big shout out to, he’s also one who inspired a lot of us to play and try to also be successful here and represent the sport well.
‘I hope I did that, and I hope I can come back – like you said – one more time.’
He continued: ‘Of course I’ve missed being here as a player. I would have loved to be here.
‘I knew walking out here last year it was going to be a tough year ahead, maybe I didn’t think it would take me this long to come back but the knee has been rough on me.
‘But I’ve been happy, I’ve been happy at home. It’s been a good year, regardless of tennis or not, my kids are fine, my wife is great, we’re happy at home. I’ve travelled so much for so many years that it’s great to be home.
‘I didn’t know if I should make the trip here, but I’m happy standing right here, right now!’
While some of the champions in attendance, such as Simona Halep and Rafael Nadal, have matches to prepare for, the rest will get to watch the likes of British hopeful Heather Watson, young Spanish starlet Carlos Alcaraz and Djokovic himself during Sunday’s Centre Court action.
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