'Slap in the face': Ash Barty caught in ugly Serena Williams furore
Ash Barty was at the centre of debate at Wimbledon on Tuesday when she was handed the prestigious honour of playing the opening match on Centre Court on day two.
According to Wimbledon tradition, the defending men's champion plays the first match on Centre Court on the opening day, while the defending women's champ does likewise on day two.
'WHAT A JOKE': Fans rage over 'ridiculous' Nick Kyrgios farce
'THIS IS AWFUL': Roger Federer survives amid Wimbledon 'disgrace'
But with defending women's champion Simona Halep not playing this year due to a calf injury, Wimbledon organisers had to decide who to give the honour to.
They settled on World No.1 Barty, who played Spanish cancer survivor Carla Suarez Navarro in her final match at Wimbledon.
The emotion-charged match was certainly fitting of opening Centre Court, however not everyone was happy with the decision.
Many thought Serena Williams should have been given the nod considering she was runner-up to Halep in 2019 when Wimbledon was last played.
Previously, the runner-up the following year has received the honour if the defending champion isn't playing.
Williams is also a seven-time champion at the All England Club, while Barty has never made it past the fourth round.
Will Swinton of The Australian newspaper described it as a "slap in the face" for Williams, saying Barty didn't deserve the honour.
"I could have sworn it would be Serena," Swinton wrote on Tuesday.
"For services rendered. For her seven titles over two decades. For electrifying the joint like few others. For the fact she’s 39 years of age and there’s no guarantee she’ll ever be back. For winning 23 major titles and hands down being the greatest female player who’s ever lived.
"Barty is a wonderful young woman and everyone adores her but she’s hardly written herself into Wimbledon’s story yet."
Williams was third-up on Centre Court on Tuesday after Barty beat Suarez Navarro and Roger Federer advanced when Adrian Mannarino retired hurt in the fifth set.
While many fans defended the decision to put Barty first, others were also fuming that Williams was overlooked.
This is disrespectful to Serena since she was the 2019 finalist and the tournament didn’t play last year! And I know it’s because she supported Meghan.
— AbsolutelyGUTTED! (@SWPRAYERCIRCLE2) June 26, 2021
It was the case in 2014 when Lisicki as a runner-up from 2013 played first on Centre Court. Not sure why they changed the tradition, weird decision.
— Szymon Rzepecki (@SzymonRzepecki) June 26, 2021
Doesn’t matter if she’s #1. The “tradition”, that Wimbledon so calls love, is that if the winner isn’t opening on centre court then the runner up does. You and I both know Serena should be opening on Centre Court.
— All Black Lives Matter (@MauriceB___) June 26, 2021
This is extremely disrespectful towards Serena she was Runner Up in 2019 she should open play on Centre Court she has won 7 Wimbledon Singles titles and Barty has never won it how utterly disrespectful.
— Adam Dawson (@AdamDawson01) June 26, 2021
Why isn’t it Serena?
— MonkeeBread (@MonkeeBread) June 26, 2021
Whaaaaat this is bullshit !!! It was supposed to be Serena since Simona withdrawn and Serena was the finalist in 2019. This is si mess up
— Cesar (@hardrock83) June 26, 2021
Serena Williams quits Wimbledon in tears
The decision came back to haunt Williams when she too was forced to retire hurt after slipping on the Centre Court grass.
The 23-time grand slam champion slipped during the fifth game against Aliaksandra Sasnovich and needed a medical timeout.
Even though the American returned after a 10-minute delay and hit a handful of winners, the pain in her right leg appeared too severe and she had to quit in tears.
"I was heartbroken to have to withdraw today after injuring my right leg," she later posted on social media.
"My love and gratitude are with the fans and the team who make being on Centre Court so meaningful.
"Feeling the extraordinary warmth and support of the crowd today when I walked on - and off - the court meant the world to me."
It was a sad end to her pursuit of a record-equalling 24th grand slam and sparked a debate about the impact of the roof being closed on Centre Court at the All England Club.
"It was very slippery. I fell as well," Sasnovich said.
Federer said the court was much more slippery under lights with the roof closed.
"This is obviously terrible that it's back-to-back matches and it hits Serena as well," Federer said.
"Oh, my God, I can't believe it.
"I do feel it feels a tad more slippery maybe under the roof...You do have to move very, very carefully out there. If you push too hard in the wrong moments, you do go down."
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.