It’s one of the most memorable moments in Wimbledon history…and actually didn’t involve any tennis.
It was, of course, Cliff Richard who serenaded the center court crowd with a few a cappella songs during a long rain delay in 1996.
The ever-popular singer is a huge tennis fan and is regularly seen in the Royal Box at the All England Lawn Tennis Club.
His brief relationship with Sue Barker also made headlines in the 1980s.
Apparently, he can play a bit too, but he finally had time to ‘play on center court’ in the men’s quarter-finals 26 years ago.
As the Wimbledon crowd waited patiently to see some tennis that day, with Pete Sampras and Tim Henman among those expected on court, Richard entertained the audience with the help of Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver as backup singers.
Yes, the moment is as bizarre and brilliant as it sounds. But he never intended to sing in front of the center court audience.
Speaking to The Guardian in 2009, Richard said: “I said I couldn’t really – I didn’t have a guitar and I didn’t know how it would work. So he suggested I do an interview instead, for the center court crowd. I said it will be fine. But at the end of the interview, the guy turned to the audience and said, “Before I let you go, they would never forgive me if I didn’t ask you to sing.” Well, I’m a professional. If I’m put on the spot, I can’t really say no.
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“So I started with Summer Holiday, almost like a joke. It was totally a capella, which has its advantages – it’s impossible to sing out of tune to begin with. And the crowd sees the vulnerability of someone who sings without no help. They were beautiful, from the first moment. The reaction was amazing.
“Pam Shriver, who is a friend of mine, was having a massage downstairs and saw me singing on TV. She told Martina Navratilova: “It’s our world, and it helps us. Let’s go help him. So they and a whole bunch of women come, and they were my choristers.
“At the end of the day, it was great, great fun. It was totally unplanned – I was singing whatever song I remembered the lyrics to: All Shook Up, Living Doll, whatever came out. It was a wonderful accident, and I’m happy to have been part of it.
1996 was a year of quarter-final clashes, Sampras and Henman both crashing out against Richard Krajicek and Todd Martin, respectively.
As Center Court celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2022, it’s here with the most memorable moments ever.
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