Tennis legend and nine-time Wimbledon singles champion Martina Navratilova has said she is ‘gutted’ to have missed out on attending the 100th anniversary of SW19’s Centre Court this afternoon after testing positive for coronavirus.
Navratilova only tested positive for the virus this morning ahead of the long-awaited celebrations at lunchtime, before Heather Watson kicked off play on the court with an unfortunate loss to Germany’s Niemeier.
The tennis legend tweeted: ‘I am gutted I can’t be there’ ahead of the celebration, which featured a surprise appearance from Sir Cliff Richard and finished with a live performance from British singer Freya Ridings.
Previous Wimbledon singles winners were invited out on court one-by-one in order of how many titles they had won.
As Navratilova was unable to join, the player with the most titles was Roger Federer, who has won the title eight times.
The nine-time Wimbledon winner was a prominent spectator at the tournament this week, drawing attention for her brightly coloured shirts
Sir Cliff Richard made a surprise appearance to recreate serenading the Centre Court crowd in 1996 during a lengthy delay in play due to rain
Navratilova still plays plenty of tennis – and was coached in her youth by Billie Jean King
In total 24 former singles champions lined up on Centre Court before the start of play to mark the historic occasion – but Martina Navratilova was unable to join them
Others who attended the ceremony included Rafael Nadal, Venus Williams, Billie Jean King and Andy Murray.
All four of these received particularly warm welcomes from the crowd.
40-year-old icon Federer had to withdraw from their summer’s Grand Slam event for the first time since 1999 – 23 years – so he can recover from a knee injury.
However, the record eight-time Wimbledon winner is aiming to return to tennis in time for the 2022 Laver Cup in September.
Former three-time Wimbledon champion John McEnroe and the BBC’s Sue Barker presented the ceremony on court to mark the anniversary – the 30th and final time she will present at SW19, as she leaves Wimbledon coverage for the BBC at the end of this year’s competition.
At the end of the ceremony, McEnroe said to Ms Barker: “On behalf of all the players I just want to say that we’re going to be lost without you.”
The 66-year-old broke down in tears as the audience cheered and gave her a standing ovation.
Billie Jean King gave a special shoutout to Navratilova – who would have been the player with the most wins under her belt – who she helped coach to her nine wins.
Navratilova said Billie’s ‘kind words’ made her cry, and thanked her for the credit.
Eight-time Wimbledon singles champion Roger Federer made the difficult decision to not play at the grand slam this year – and the crowd ensured he heard how much they missed him
Sue Barker was cheered by the crowd on what will be her last time covering the Grand Slam for the BBC
Former Wimbledon singles champions from left: Rod Laver, Venus Williams, Marion Bartoli and Billie-Jean King line-up during the 100 years of Centre Court celebration
The champions all showed great respect and friendliness towards one another (Pictured: Roger Federer and John McEnroe shake hands and share a smile during the celebrations)
Venus Williams stunned as she walked out on Centre Court – although her sister, Serena, could not join her fellow champions
Retiring BBC presenter Sue Barker seen in an emotional embrace with former champion John McEnroe on Centenary day on Centre Court at the 2022 Wimbledon Championships at the All England Club
Sue Barker is applauded and cheered by the tennis stars and Centre Court crowd after presenting the BBC’s coverage of Wimbled for 30 years
Freya Ridings performs live on Centre Court after the walk of champions was completed
Social media users were quick to add their words of support for the tennis star, who is widely seen as one of the best singles players of all time.
One user, Kim Brixton, wrote: ‘I’m still wiping the tears. I fell in [love] with tennis, u and all the key players from the mid 70s.
‘Been following tennis with fervor since.’
A second added: ‘I was screaming at the Tv when you didn’t come out.
‘The greatest Wimbledon champion & a fitting moment to be saluted for your 9 titles.
‘Credit Billie-Jean for mentioning you. So so gutted for you.’
Wimbledon is celebrated the 100th year of Center Court with a grand ceremony on Day 7 of the grass-court tournament.
Veteran tennis broadcasters Sue Barker, John McEnroe and Clare Balding looked back at some of the iconic moments from the past with former champions.
Those champions have included the likes of Rodger Federer, Andy Murray, Margaret Court and more.
Wimbledon also provided tickets to Ukrainian refugees and donated an additional £250,000 to charity from the All England Club and the LTA.
The stands were also filled with a host of famous faces including the likes of Tom Daley, Adam Peaty, Kadeena Cox, Max Whitlock, Gareth Southgate and more.
They recreated the time Sir Cliff Richard serenaded the Centre Court crowd in 1996 during a lengthy delay in play due to rain.
The 81-year-old singer joined the commentary team on the court on Sunday afternoon to sing ‘Summer Holiday’ once again.
With the mic in his hand, Richard made his way around the stands to sing to the fans. However, some supporters took to Twitter to call the viewing ‘cringe worthy’.