Roger Federer traveled 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 racquet in hand. .
I just tried to be successful here and represent the sport well. I hope I did, said Federer, who 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… once again.
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 many 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.
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 being 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 now.
The whole scene was, in some ways, an infomercial for the Grand Slam event itself.
There were three wispy videos in all banter from co-hosts Sue Barker and John McEnroe, and 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 front-row seats.
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.
Djokovic, the six-time winner who was due to play at Center Court in the fourth round later on Sunday, joked when it was his turn with the microphone: God, I feel more nervous than when I’m playing.
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 big names from yesteryear too, 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 tweeted 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.