Roger Federer hopes to return for one last chance at Wimbledon after receiving a standing ovation at a poignant ceremony marking the centenary of the most famous tennis stage.
Federer was greeted with a deafening roar as he was the last of the roster of former champions, including Australian greats Margaret Court, Rod Laver, John Newcombe, Pat Cash and Lleyton Hewitt, to parade to center court on Sunday.
Serving out the 2022 championships after more knee surgeries, the 20-time grand slam champion who won a men’s record eight crowns at Wimbledon didn’t disappoint when he addressed the adoring crowd.
“I’ve tried to be successful here and to represent the sport well. I hope I have done that and I hope I can come back one day,” Federer said to great applause.
Federer turns 41 next month and will be sidelined for a year, his last appearance a 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 6-0 quarterfinal loss to Hubert Hurkacz.
The Swiss maestro had surgery shortly after to repair damage to his meniscus and cartilage in his right knee — his third surgery on that knee in 18 months.
“I’ve been lucky enough to play a lot of games on this pitch. It feels uncomfortable to be here in a different kind of role today,” said Federer, who had competed in every Wimbledon since his main draw in 1999.
“But it’s great to be here with… all the other champions. This job has given me my biggest wins and my biggest losses.”
Federer has said he plans to return to tournaments at the Swiss Indoors in October.
“Of course I missed being here. I would have loved to be here. I knew I walked out of here last year, it was going to be a difficult year. Maybe I didn’t think it would take so long to come back, but the knee has been heavy for me.
“I didn’t know if I would make the trip, but I’m glad I’m here and now.”
While retired reigning women’s champion Ash Barty and her Australian idol Evonne Goolagong were conspicuously absent, Federer was one of more than two dozen Wimbledon winners to perform in a 35-minute tribute to a stadium that opened in 1922.
Previous champions to play this year have included Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep in singles and Venus Williams in mixed doubles.
Andy Murray, whose 2013 Wimbledon singles trophy was the first for a British man in 77 years, Angelique Kerber and Petra Kvitova were other active players in attendance.
And Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Stefan Edberg and Goran Ivanisevic were others of yesteryear.
Others absent, such as Barty — tied to playing exhibition golf in the US — were Martina Navratilova, who tested positive for COVID-19 and wrote on Twitter that she was “disappointed” to miss the opportunity, Serena Williams and Pete Sampras .