Ash Barty's secret Wimbledon gesture for ex-rival exposed

·4-min read
Pictured left to right, former tennis rivals Ash Barty and Simona Halep shake hands after a match.
It's understood Ash Barty (L) has put in a request for Simona Halep to open centre court on Tuesday in a proud Wimbledon tradition. Pic: Getty

The tennis world has been given yet another reason to love Ash Barty after details of the retired Aussie's beautiful Wimbledon gesture for Simon Halep came to light.

Halep - the 2019 champion at the All England Club - was denied the tradition of opening play on centre court in the 2020 tournament due to the Covid-19 pandemic that saw it cancelled for the first time since World War II.

CONTROVERSY: Serena Williams' former coach in 'cheating' storm

'REALLY SORRY': Nick Kyrgios' sad announcement before Wimbledon

Injury then ruled the Romanian champion out of the 2021 edition, presenting Barty with the honour of playing the first match on centre court that year.

The Aussie said she was humbled by the honour at the time, and felt bitterly disappointed for Halep that she didn't get to experience it herself.

Pictured right, Ash Barty congratulates Carla Suarez Navarro after their match in the first round at Wimbledon in 2021.
Ash Barty congratulates Carla Suarez Navarro after their match in the first round at Wimbledon in 2021. Pic: Getty

“With all my heart I wish Simo was here to do it (start on Centre Court) herself,” Barty said after her opening round win over 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.”

Following Barty's shock retirement earlier this year, The Tennis Podcast conducted an online poll to see who fans thought should be given the honour of opening Wimbledon in 2022.

Aussie tennis analyst and Halep’s former coach Darren Cahill replied to the tweet by insisting: “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.”

Ash Barty's coach Craig Tyzzer replied to Cahill's tweet and suggested that the Aussie champion had already put forward the same case to Wimbledon organisers.

“Totally agree Killer and I think someone may have already requested it,” Tyzzer wrote alongside a winking face emoji.

Ash Barty praised after secret gesture for Simona Halep

Cahill didn't need any more clues about who that "someone" might be after replying: “That would be awesome. Quite typical of that someone.”

Tennis reporter Craig Gabriel also chimed in by commenting: “Give that someone an AO (Order of Australia). Oh they already did.”

Halep's preparations for Wimbledon continue to gather steam after the 30-year-old moved into the quarter-finals of the Bad Homburg Open in Germany.

The Romanian fourth seed breezed into the last eight with a dominant 6-0 6-3 victory over Tamara Zidansek.

It sets up a quarter-final showdown with Amanda Anisimova, who won her an All-American match against Ann Li 6-0 6-2.

Elsewhere, Alize Cornet downed Tatjana Maria 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 to tee up a clash with Angelique Kerber, while Bianca Andreescu will meet top seed Daria Kasatkina after defeating Katie Swan 6-4 6-4.

with agencies

Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.