Ambledon’s center court resounded with singing, crying and loud applause as tennis fans watched the great players of decades stand shoulder to shoulder on the sacred grass.
Twenty-six former champions, including Sir Andy Murray, Venus Williams, Rafael Nadal and Billy Jane King, rocked the crowd in a short ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the Central Court.
Veteran tennis broadcasters Sow Barker and John McEnroe introduced the players as they entered to see how many championships they had won.
Everyone was greeted with applause and fans cheered as they stood on their feet as record eight-time Wimbledon winner Roger Federer entered the court wearing a suit and tie with white trainers.
The crowd also sang a live Summer Holiday song by Sir Cliff Richard, who was a guest at the royal palace in mid-Sunday.
The former US number one king wore a shiny pink blazer and kissed the crowd.
In an on-court interview with the BBC’s Barker, he said: “At the age of 17 I played my first match here at Wimbledon.
“I had two days in this court. It was magical and amazing and I knew I was here.
He paid tribute to the nine-time Wimbledon winner and his friend Martina Navratilova, who was knocked out of the lineup by the corona virus.
Noratilova was to accompany Harry Potter author JK Rowling, who also had to cancel her Royal Box slot on Sunday morning.
Favorite Novak Djokovic, who won the men’s singles this year, said it was a “complete honor and privilege” to be sharing the court with “our sports legends” and revealed that when he was playing, Were more nervous.
The 20-time Grand Slam winner of Serbia said: “Certainly this court has been really special for my childhood and I have always dreamed of coming here and hopefully we will win.
“The dream came true and I got it back in 2011 – perhaps the highlight of my career and the most beautiful moment.”
The Swiss great Federer said in a humble speech that he felt “strange” to return to the court without playing and that he had “missed” Wimbledon this year.
“I hope I can come back again,” the 20-time Grand Slam winner, who is out with a knee injury, told the audience.
“It was hard on my knees but I’m happy at home. It’s been a good year.”
British singer Freya Riding performed Lost Without You on a white piano as Grand Slam winners looked across the grass and some spectators burst into tears.
Team GB’s Heather Watson was the first player on center court but lost to Germany’s Joel Neymar – and later Djokovic will return to the grass against Tim van Rijthon of the Netherlands.
Thousands of free tickets have been given to Ukrainian, Syrian and Afghan refugees, as well as community groups and schools.
Center Court has been the main stage of the championship since 1922, when the tournament moved from SW19’s Whirlpool Road to Church Road.
From Althia Gibson, the first black player to win Wimbledon in 1957, to the now-imprisoned former Grand Slam great Boris Becker, the year the Berlin Wall fell has hosted many memorable moments in history.
The court was also bombed during World War II in October 1940, and Wimbledon was unable to repair the damaged section until 1947.
In 1979, it was expanded to host a larger capacity, and in 2009 it acquired a retractable roof.
In the last two years, the tournament has been compromised with the corona virus, as it was canceled by 2020, while in 2021 its capacity limit was 50%.