Steffi Graf: The Queen Returns to Centre Court

binks mCorrespondent IMay 18, 2009

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 17:  Steffi Graf looks on during the Ladies Singles match against Kim Clijsters during the 'Centre Court Celebration' at Wimbledon on May 17, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)

It seems only fitting that the last match that was played on the Open Wimbledon Centre Court ended in near darkness after endless rain delays and was what many claim would go down in history as the best match of the highest quality of tennis that the Wimbledon has seen.

Yesterday marked another historic day for the All England Lawn Tennis Championships. The Centre Court at Wimbledon got a new retractable roof and yesterday it was unveiled and used for the first time.

To commemorate this occasion the All England Lawn Tennis Club called four of the tour's past players to play the first match under the new roof.

Tim Henman, the former British No. 1 and at one time Britian's main hope of winning a Gran Slam crown was an obvious choice. The fans loved him and in fact at SW19, there's even a hill named after him, right outside centre court!

To those people who have been to Wimbledon and not been able to actually get onto Centre Court, Henman Hill is the next best thing.

Kim Clijsters is a former World No. 1 and was quite a player in her day. One of the most affable players on the tour Kim was loved by the players and the crowd alike. She won her lone Grand Slam at the US Open back in 2005, and would have achieved many more triumphs had she not retired in 2007 at age 23!

Currently she is attempting to make a comeback to the WTA tour later this year and she was chosen to partner Tim in a mixed doubles match up.

Their opponents were the tennis's power couple who share between them 30 grand slams!

Andre Agassi was one of the most popular player in his time. Known as much for his wild and constantly changing look as for his tennis, Andre was a big fan favourite, especially at Wimbledon, where he won his first Grand Slam back in 1992.

He went onto win eight Grand Slam titles, and while that was not as many as his main rival Pete Sampras, he did go one better than Sampras by being one of the very few players who has won a title at every Grand Slam and an Olympic Gold medal.

His partner in the match up was his wife Steffi Graf. Steffi won her first Wimbledon back in 1988 and went on to win a total of seven titles at SW19.

Through her distinguished career she accumulated a total of 22 Gran Slams, which include a Golden Grand Slam—A Calendar GrandSlam and an Olympic Gold medal in the same year, the only player till date to achieve that feat in a single year!

The four of them played a set of mixed doubles, which was followed by a set between Henman and Agassi, followed by Clijsters and Graf. Wimbledon holds precious memories for each of these four players and you could see how pleased they were to be playing at Wimbledon again.

It was a pleasure to watch all these players back in action again. And while all the match ups were mostly friendly encounters with a very jovial mood amongst the players, the level of tennis that they demonstrated was simply exquisite.

Of the four, Steffi Graf impressed me the most! It has been 10 years since she retired, 10 years since her last match on Centre Court, but if you saw her play yesterday, it was like she had never left. Looking fit as ever, she hit her thundering forehand with as much gusto as she did before. Her backhand was impeccable.

In fact, if someone were to see a recording of her match up with Kim yesterday, they might just think they are seeing an old tennis match between the two.

Kim played brilliantly her game seemed sharp as ever, and after a close few games, she did manage to edge out Graf, which is just as well since she is making her comeback later this year. It would have probably hampered her confidence had she ended up losing the matchup to a player who is 14 years her senior and 10 years into her retirement.

Steffi was a delight to watch as always with her graceful game and unbelievable footwork. For someone who is close to 40, had two kids and retired from the tour 10 years ago, her level of tennis was astounding. The other thing that stood out was the huge smile that never left her face. Being back and playing on Centre Court clearly meant the wold to her!

In fact, in her postmatch on court interview, she said she really missed the place and she might ask for a wild card for Wimbledon this year. While she was clearly joking, it would be an absolute thrill for her fans to see the great champion back on the Centre Court. I don't think the Wimbledon officials would mind too much either!


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