Ash Barty showed she is an absolute champion with a brilliant request for Wimbledon this year. Organisers have ignored her.
Ash Barty’s rumoured request for former Wimbledon champion Simona Halep to open the tournament on centre court this year has fallen on deaf ears.
Halep, the 2019 champion, had previously been denied the traditional honour of opening proceedings on the All England Club’s iconic centre court as a result of Covid-19 and injuries.
Barty’s coach Craig Tyzzer suggested on Twitter on Thursday Barty asked for Halep to be given the honour this year with Barty not there to defend the ladies singles crown she won in 2021.
However, Wimbledon officials announced on Saturday morning world No. 1 Iga Swiatek will instead be opening on centre court.
The decision to ignore the tradition of past champions divided the tennis world on Saturday following the announcement.
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After the grand slam was cancelled in 2020 because of Covid, Barty opened the tournament in 2021, despite not winning in 2019.
Halep, who won the 2019 title, was ruled out of last year’s tournament through injury, allowing Barty to take her place.
It was something that didn’t sit too comfortably with Barty at the time.
“With all my heart I wish Simo was here to do it (start on Centre Court) herself,” she told the BBC after her three-set victory over veteran Carla Suarez Navarro. “She’s a champion. She’s earned the right to open this court.
“To be given the honour when I haven’t fully deserved it, I wanted to come out here and pay respect to that.
“It’s an honour and a privilege and I was extremely humbled when Jamie (tournament director Baker) asked me to come out here and play on this beautiful court. I couldn’t be more proud to be out here.”
Barty’s former coach Craig Tyzzer hinted the Queenslander may have looked to return the favour this year, now Halep is back in action.
Replying to a tweet from The Tennis Podcast, which asked who should nab the first Centre Court match, tennis analyst and Halep’s former coach Darren Cahill wrote: “This should be Simona Halep.
“Covid wiped out the 2020 championships & unable to play last year due to injury so Ash Barty was given the honour. With Ash retired, the privilege and honour should go back to Simo. She has earned it as 2019 champ.”
Tyzzer responded: “Totally agree Killer and I think someone may have already requested it,” followed by a winking face emoji.
Not needing too much effort to read between the lines, Cahill wrote: “That would be awesome. Quite typical of that someone.”
The All England Club rejected the request on Saturday morning.
However, reports on Saturday suggested officials made the decision motivated partly by Halep’s injury situation.
The No. 16 seed’s Wimbledon hopes suffered a blow when she withdrew from the semi-finals of the WTA tournament in Bad Homburg with a neck injury.
She issued an apology to fans and said she was dealing with a “blocked neck”.
Despite the injury, there was considerable criticism of the decision to hand the honour to Swiatek.
Tennis reporter Yasmin Syed wrote on Twitter: “Very deserved but still the wrong decision. Absolutely should have been Simona Halep, no question about it”.
Halep has drawn Czech player Karolina Muchova, who reached last year’s quarter-finals, for her first round match.
Women’s top seed Iga Swiatek, who has won her past six tournaments, including the French Open, was pitted against Croatian qualifier Jana Fett.
Britain’s Emma Raducanu will take on Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck, providing the US Open champion has recovered sufficiently from a side strain.
Wimbledon announced in April that it would ban players from Russia and Belarus due to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, meaning world number one Daniil Medvedev is among those missing.
Nick Kyrgios was handed a friendly draw after he avoided any early showdowns with Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal.
The World No. 40 plays British wildcard Paul Jubb in the first round followed by a likely second round meeting with Croatian 26th seed Filip Krajinovic. He is also looking at a potential third round match with Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Serena Williams has been drawn to face French debutant Harmony Tan in the first round of Wimbledon as the American star returns to singles action after a year away.
The early focus at the All England Club will be on the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, who has dropped to 1,204th in the world rankings and is unseeded for the tournament.
Defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic begins his quest for a seventh title — and fourth in a row — against South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo, ranked 75th in the world.
Wimbledon is widely considered Williams’s best chance of claiming a 24th Grand Slam singles crown to equal Margaret Court’s all-time record.
The last of her Grand Slam singles titles came at the Australian Open in 2017. Speaking after Wednesday’s doubles match, Williams had said: “I feel good — as good as one can feel after having such a long time off.”
— with AFP