WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Roger Federer went to Wimbledon this year, after all — not to compete, but to take part in a ceremony marking center court’s centenary on Sunday — and declared his intention to try and return. in 2023 with a racket in hand.
“I just tried to do well here and represent the sport well. I hope I did,” said Federer, who has won a men’s record eight of his 20 Grand Slam titles at the All England Club. and was greeted with a standing ovation, “And I hope I can come back…one more time.”
Instead of the mandatory all-white playing uniform, Federer wore a dark suit and tie, his purple Wimbledon member badge pinned to a jacket lapel. The Swiss star, who turns 41 on August 8 and has been sidelined for a year with knee problems, was among more than two dozen singles championship winners at the grass-court tournament who appeared in the main stadium during a 35-minute tribute. in a stadium that opened in 1922.
“I had the chance to play a lot of matches on this ground. It’s awkward to be here today in a different role,” said Federer, who had been to every Wimbledon since his main draw debut in 1999. “But it’s great to be here with…everyone the other champions. This field has given me my greatest wins, my greatest losses.
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 3, 2022
His last match anywhere was on July 7, 2021, when he lost at Center Court in the quarter-finals to Hubert Hurkacz 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-0. Shortly after, Federer underwent surgery to repair damage to his meniscus and cartilage in his right knee – his third operation on that knee in the space of a year and a half.
Federer said he plans to resume the tournament at the Swiss Indoors in October.
“Of course, I missed my presence here. I would have liked to be here. I knew walking here last year 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 was hard on me,” he told the crowd. “I didn’t know if I should make the trip, but I’m happy to be here right now.”
The whole scene was, in some ways, an infomercial for the Grand Slam event itself.
There were wispy videos — three in all — of jokes from co-hosts Sue Barker and John McEnroe, performances from Cliff Richard, who helped kill time by singing during rain delays (a thing of the past, now that Center Court and No. 1 Court have retractable roofs), and Freya Ridings, who sang the 2017 ballad “Lost Without You” while accompanying herself on a white piano lying on the grass near some first-floor seats. rank.
Former champions in hand included some still in the brackets this year, such as Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep in singles, and Venus Williams in mixed doubles.
When it was his turn on the mic, Djokovic joked, “God, I feel more nervous than when I play.”
The six-time winner was due to be there on center court in the fourth round later, which was unusual in itself: it’s the first time in history that the tournament has been scheduled as a 14-day event, with a game scheduled for the middle of Sunday. Previously this was booked as a day off, and only on four occasions – in 1991, 1997, 2004 and 2016 – a backlog of matches created by too much rain led organizers to add matches on that Sunday.
Andy Murray, whose 2013 Wimbledon singles trophy was the first for a Briton in 77 years, Angelique Kerber and Petra Kvitova were other active players present. And there were also big names from yesteryear, of course: Billie Jean King, Rod Laver, Chris Evert, Bjorn Borg – he and McEnroe, fierce rivals in the 1980s, hugged – Stefan Edberg and Goran Ivanisevic.
Also listed by the club as a participant: the son of Leslie Godfree, who delivered the first serve in the first match at Center Court in 1922, and the grandson of Algernon Kingscote, Godfree’s opponent that day.
Absent were three of the most successful players in tournament history: Martina Navratilova (who tested positive for COVID-19 and wrote on Twitter that she was “disgusted” to miss the opportunity), Serena Williams and Pete Sampras. Navratilova’s nine singles championships are a Wimbledon record; Williams, who lost in the first round last week, and Sampras, who retired in 2002, have each won it seven times.
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