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Saturday, 10 June, 2000, 18:15 GMT 19:15 UK
Comeback Kings and Queens
McEnroe and Graf
McEnroe came back to parter Stefi Graf in the doubles
There is a magnetism emanating from SW19 that entices retired champions to restring their racquets and return for one last moment of glory on the esteemed lawns at Wimbledon.

Boris Becker and John McEnroe did it in 1999 and Martina Navratilova is on course to do it this year.

The 43-year old Czech-born American has teamed up with South Africa's Mariaan de Swardt, who is 14 years her junior and was a Doubles finalist at the Championships last year.

The pair launched their campaign at the Madrid Open in May, where they reached the second round.

Like McEnroe and Becker before her, Navratilova is certain to receive a warm welcome from the Centre Court crowd who once displayed mixed feelings towards these champions during their hey-day.

There's a certain nostalgia factor attached to legends and that is what these players are

Sports psychologist Dr David Lewis

Their colourful personalities added extra entertainment value to their unquestionable abilities.

Teenage arrogance

The memories of Becker's teenage arrogance, McEnroe's tantrums and Navratilova's openness about her sexuality have left many critics ruing the lack of charisma among the modern tour players.

"There's a certain nostalgia factor attached to legends and that is what these players are," explained sports psychologist, Dr David Lewis. "They've earned special importance as legends and people want to go and see them because they believe there won't be too many more opportunities to say 'I was there'."

But there are several other reasons why former champions can not seem to give up for good.

Some are offered a huge appearance fee, others simply refuse to accept they are past their sell-by date.

Borg Comeback
Bjorn Borg in his 1991 comeback with his wooden racket

Five-time Wimbledon champion, Bjorn Borg, returns to Wimbledon this year for the first time since his retirement in 1983.

Disastrous attempt

But after a disastrous attempt at a comeback in the early 1990s, Borg's playing interests are now limited to the Senior Circuit and his return will be to appear in the Parade of Champions.

Meanwhile, three-time Singles winner, McEnroe, has enjoyed continued success on the Senior Circuit and wanted to test himself in the Mixed Doubles with Steffi Graf.

They reached the semi-finals, but Graf's back injury curtailed the 41-year-old's bid for potential glory.

For Navratilova, a return to the All England Club presents the chance to equal Billie Jean King's record 20 Wimbledon titles before her induction to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in July.

The nine-time Singles champion bowed out of professional tennis in 1994 after setting a record of 167 professional tournament wins and 165 Doubles titles in a career which spanned over two decades.


Like McEnroe, she has since become an established television commentator and the Wimbledon crowds have been warned not to take these comebacks too seriously.

Becker was one former Wimbledon champion who did make a brief return in the Singles after a two-year absence.

Although he reached the last 16, his appearance was primarily part of his preparations as Germany's Davis Cup captain.

Graf's physical problems are likely to rule out any chance of a comeback by Wimbledon's latest retired champion.

But, if Wimbledon's powers of attraction can draw the 40-somethings back to Centre Court, anything is possible.

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See also:

12 Jun 00 | Fans Guide
Is the grass always greener?
11 Jun 00 | Photo Galleries
The 70s at Wimbledon
11 Jun 00 | Photo Galleries
The 80s at Wimbledon
11 Jun 00 | Fans Guide
The traditions of Wimbledon
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