Martina Navratilova was absent from Wimbledon’s centenary celebrations on Sunday after testing positive for coronavirus in the morning.
The greatest Wimbledon singles champion in history was due to attend SW19 as a Royal Box guest alongside other tennis legends, including Billie Jean King and Rod Laver, as part of the 100th anniversary of Centre Court.
Navratilova, 65, said she was “gutted” to miss the special occasion with her friend JK Rowling, who was due to attend with the American tennis star.
Former tennis champion John McEnroe and the BBC’s Sue Barker presented the ceremony on court to mark the anniversary, which included a surprise appearance by a singing Cliff Richard.
The star sung “Summer Holiday” to a delighted crowd in a nod to one of the most memorable moments in The Championships’ history – when he serenaded Centre Court with the tune during a lengthy rain delay in 1996.
Previous singles champions were also welcomed back to SW19 to great fanfare from the audience, who erupted in cheers and applause as each former player returned to the grass court they once championed.
Roger Federer received a particularly warm welcome back to The Championships as the eight-time singles winner walked onto court to a loud standing ovation while wearing a suit rather than his usual tennis whites.
Other former champions in attendance were Venus Williams, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.
Billie Jean King paid tribute to the absent Navratilova, saying: “I’m sorry she’s not here, she certainly carried me through my win… she certainly helped me and I coached her.”
Navratilova, the nine-time singles champion who won her titles between 1978 and 1990, said on Sunday: “Unfortunately I will miss it as I just tested positive this morning. Am so bummed!”
Sue Barker, who has been the face of BBC’s Wimbledon coverage for the last 30 years, also received a standing ovation from the adoring crowd.
Turning to Barker at the end of the ceremony, McEnroe said: “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 stood to applaud and cheer. Last month, the broadcaster announced this year would be her final time covering the Grand Slam tournament.
“That means the world to me, it really does,” she said.