'Slap in the face': Ash Barty caught in ugly Serena Williams furore

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·Sports Editor
·4-min read
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Serena Williams and Ash Barty, pictured here in action at Wimbledon.
Ash Barty was handed the honour of opening Centre Court on Tuesday, while Serena Williams played third. Image: Getty

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.

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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.

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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."

Serena Williams, pictured here in tears after being forced to retire hurt at Wimbledon.
Serena Williams was in tears after being forced to retire hurt at Wimbledon. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

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."

with AAP

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