Wimbledon celebrated the centenary of its iconic Centre Court with great fanfare on July 3. Centre Court’s most revered champions returned to SW19 to take part in the grand celebrations.
Three-time winner John McEnroe and Sue Barker led the ceremony which was attended by legends like Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Bjorn Borg, Billie Jean King and Rod Laver. However, one famous Wimbledon champion was curiously absent from the celebrations. Former World No. 1 Maria Sharapova was not present even though the Russian legend had won a Wimbledon title in 2004 when she defeated Serena Williams.
Russian and Belarusian players have been banned from participating in Wimbledon this year due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Many on social media suggested that Sharapova wasn’t invited due to her nationality, but the Wimbledon organisers have insisted that this was not the case. If reports are to be believed, the organizers were worried about the possibility of one of the royals getting pictured with a Russian player given the geopolitical tensions between Britain and Russia. It is worth mentioning that Kate Middleton replaced the Queen as Patron of Wimbledon’s All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in 2016.
Daily Mail reported that the invitation criteria were not as open as some people thought. The All England Club only invited those former champions who were already planning to attend this year’s tournament.
Fans of the Russian legend also spotted that Sharapova was missing from a special video montage that celebrated the past champions of Wimbledon.
There is a possibility that Sharapova wouldn’t have been able to visit even if Wimbledon had invited her, as she is pregnant with her first child. The five-time Grand Slam champion had revealed in April that she was expecting a child with fiance Alexander Gilkes.
Maria Sharapova brought down the curtains on her illustrious career in 2020, after playing for almost 15 years as a professional tennis player.