Center court gives standing ovation to Roger Federer during centenary celebration

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Roger Federer received a standing ovation as he returned to Wimbledon to lead a celebration to mark 100 years of center court.

Absent from the tournament this year for the first time since 1997 as he continues his recovery from knee surgery, Federer received the loudest cheers from a parade of former champions.

Nearly 30 winners of major singles trophies, including Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Venus Williams, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, cheered heartily.

Federer hasn’t played a game since losing to Hubert Hurkacz in the quarter-finals here 12 months ago but is still targeting a comeback, which is set to start at the Laver Cup in London in September.

The 40-year-old said: “I’ve had the chance to play a lot of games on this pitch. It’s great to be here with all the other champions. My biggest wins, my biggest losses. One of my highlights was coming out here in 2001 with Pete Sampras.

“I hope I can come back somehow. Of course I missed being here. I knew coming out last year it was going to be a tough year ahead. It has been a difficult year but I have been happy at home.

Sue Barker and three-time champion John McEnroe hosted the show, which featured Sir Cliff Richard reprising his famous 1996 rain break by singing Summer Holiday with backing vocalists from tennis – this time including Pam Shriver and Laura Robson.

The organizers might have been worried about the reception that three-time singles champion Margaret Court, who has been widely criticized for her views on same-sex marriage, would receive but, although not as enthusiastic as many others, there got polite applause.

There were a few notable absentees, including seven-time singles champions Pete Sampras and Serena Williams and nine-time winner Martina Navratilova, who was forced to stay away from the All England Club after testing positive for coronavirus.

Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Steffi Graf, Boris Becker, Maria Sharapova and Virginia Wade were other absentees from the parade while 1961 champions Laver and Angela Mortimer boasted the most enduring ties to center court.

The ceremony ended with another standing ovation for former semi-finalist Barker, who is in her final year of presenting to the BBC.

Barker, who has had to deal with many emotional players after final defeats, shed her own tears on center court during the reception.

“John McEnroe will be sent to Court 17 for leaving the script, but thank you, it really means the world to me,” she said.

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