Thursday, August 11 2022

WIMBLEDON – Where is it Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Martina Navratilova, Pete Sampras and Steffi Graf ruled. Rod Laver, Billie Jean King and Althea Gibson before that. And Bill Tilden, Helen Wills Moody, Don Budge and Suzanne Lenglen before that.

It has been called the cathedral of tennis and the site of the the best-known patch of grass in the world.

Center court at the current Church Road location of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club opened 100 years ago, in 1922, and this centenary is celebrated at Wimbledon on Sunday – which in itself is a special occasion, as it marks the start of scheduled play on the Sunday of the mid-fortnight, which has traditionally been a rest day in the grass-court Grand Slam tournament.

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There is a sign on the side of the chair umpire stand with the words “Centre Court” and “100”. A unique version of the ever popular tournament towel for the occasion. A series of votes via Wimbledon.com let fans pick their favorite moments from arena history.

The structure has been updated and improved over time, with new upholstered green seats this year, for example, and, most famously, the installation of a retractable roof before the 2009 tournament. 9,989 seats and 3,600 standing places at the opening to 14,974 seats today.

What doesn’t seem to have changed is the reverence with which players view the place.

That sentiment was expressed that way by seven-time Wimbledon champion Sampras after securing what would be his last victory on Center Court – or anywhere at the All England Club – beating Great Britain’s Martin Lee 6- 3, 7-6(1), 6-3 on June 24, 2002: “You go out on center court, it’s like Mecca there. The US Open, Roland-Garros, those are big events, but center court at Wimbledon, there’s something extra special every time you walk in. I feel like I’ve come home today.

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Some find it all a little intimidating. Some, of course, never play it. Some say they went inside to look around before the tournament started, just to see it.

Here are the thoughts or memories on center court of some players past and present:

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“For me, it was the first time I saw Princess Kate. She was sitting in the royal box and I could NOT see her. She is super beautiful. And I also remember seeing Tom Cruise. It was all a little overwhelming.- Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, runner-up to Ash Barty in the Wimbledon final last year.

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“When I walked onto center court (for) a final, there was like a silence – a silence of reverence, a tingle of excitement – ​​of something that was going to explode any moment. Sure enough, the crowd would explode. You think to all the former champions, ghosts and spirits who have played on this center court. I only do this at Wimbledon. I really don’t do this at any other Grand Slam. — Chris Evert, three-time Wimbledon champion.

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“I imagine it’s probably a magical place. I don’t want to go there until I play on the pitch. – Tommy Paul of the United States, who faces Cam Norrie of Great Britain in the fourth round on Sunday at No 1 Court.

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“I was like, ‘Wow.’ I was 16. More than half my life ago. I was impressed by the elegance. – Mihaela Buzarnescu, a 34-year-old Romanian, who visited center court when she was playing in the junior tournament at Wimbledon, and played there for the first time on Thursday.

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“They know the game, so there’s this incredible silence, followed by this big roar. I mean, it happens in every stadium; there’s something even more there. There’s not seat that is bad there.—John McEnroe, three-time Wimbledon champion, entering the arena.

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“The walk to the field is definitely the most nerve-wracking because you see the members’ enclosure. It is a very beautiful region. They have, I don’t know if they’re guards or whatever, they’re standing in front of center court, looking straight in the eye. I didn’t expect this the first time when I arrived. I remember saying, ‘Wow!’ You want to take a picture of it. Obviously you can’t.” – Coco Gauff, who played and won her first match there aged 15 in 2019.

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More AP Wimbledon coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/wimbledon and https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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