Emma Raducanu may not have the honor of opening play on center court at Wimbledon this year after retired defending champion Ash Barty made a request to the All England Club. As part of tournament tradition, the defending men’s and women’s singles champions open play on the main showcourt on the first two days, but the Aussie retired earlier this year therefore asked someone else to take his place.
Novak Djokovic is set to open play on center court at Wimbledon on Monday, while Barty would likely have received the same honor on Tuesday before announcing his shock retirement in March aged just 25. The All England Club found themselves in a similar position the last year when 2019 champion Simona Halep was forced to retire injured.
Barty had the honor of starting the game in the Romanian’s absence and has now called on tournament organizers to return the favor to Halep and allow her to be part of the tradition she missed out on last year as she was sidelined with a calf injury. After the former coach of the 2019 champion suggested that it is the 19th world who plays his first match in the center, Barty’s mentor revealed the gesture of the Australian.
“It should be Simona Halep,” said Darren Cahill, answering a question about who should have the honor of starting on the court this year. “Covid wiped out the 2020 championships and couldn’t play last year due to injury so Ash Barty was given the honor. With Ash retired, the privilege and honor should go to Simo She deserved it as the 2019 champion.”
Raducanu will likely be seen as a top performer as the defending US Open champion, world No. 11 and British No. 1 who reached week two of her Grand Slam debut as the 338th wildcard at Wimbledon Last year. But a request from their defending champion probably wouldn’t be ignored by the All England Club, as it makes more of a case for giving Halep the honour.
World number 1 Iga Swiatek and last year’s runner-up Karolina Pliskova are also believed to be in the conversation, although the All England Club have yet to announce who will take Barty’s place with the tournament in less than a week. The draw will take place on Friday, after which the order of play for the first two days of the first round will likely be established.
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