Roger Federer is targeting one last farewell Wimbledon appearance as a player after his return to Centre Court for a special centenary ceremony prompted a standing ovation.
As the only man to have won Wimbledon eight times, Federer was the last player to be introduced during the parade of champions and received the most rapturous ovation even among some of the greatest players in tennis history.
“I hope I can come back - one more time,” said Federer, who reached the final as recently as 2019 but will turn 41 next month.
Federer has been suffering with a knee injury during the past year and admitted that he was in two minds about whether to travel to London for the ceremony.
“I didn't know if I should make the trip but I’m happy standing here right now,” he said. “It feels awkward to be here today in a different type of role. Of course I have missed being here - I would have loved to be here [playing]. This court has given me my biggest wins, my biggest losses.
“I maybe didn't think it would take me this long to come back. The knee has been rough on me - but I've been happy at home.”
Federer pinpointed his 2001 breakthrough victory against Pete Sampras and then his first Wimbledon title in 2003 as two particular highlights.
Other former champions who were introduced included Margaret Court, the all-time Grand Slam record holder with 24 titles, whose views on same sex-marriage and homosexuality have prompted calls for the Margaret Court Arena at the Australian Open in Melbourne to be renamed.
Court received a respectful welcome onto Centre Court where, after Federer, there were particularly loud cheers for Rafael Nadal, Chris Evert, Novak Djokovic, Rod Laver, Bjorn Bjorg, Venus Williams, Billie Jean King and Andy Murray.
Among the absent former champions was the Russian former champion Maria Sharapova, who is currently heavily pregnant. Wimbledon’s ban has only related to current Russian and Belarussian players, rather than coaching staff, and it is unclear whether an invitation was extended to Sharapova.
Martina Navratilova, the legendary nine-time women’s champion, has been at Wimbledon but missed the ceremony after catching Covid. Other notable absentees included the seven-times champions Steffi Graf and Pete Sampras.