PARIS, France - Sandwiched between the two semifinals at Roland Garros on Thursday afternoon, the WTA marked its 40th anniversary by welcoming back a host of former players to the center stage.
Grand Slam champions Martina Navratilova, Martina Hingis, Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario and Conchita Martínez were among those returning to Philippe Chatrier for the celebrations, each of whom received a bouquet and a guard of honor from the ball kids to mark the occasion.
Also in attendance, albeit not at court level, were Chris Evert, Amélie Mauresmo, Justine Henin and Mary Joe Fernandez, who all took a moment away from their commentary commitments to give the appreciative crowd a wave from the television gantry.
The ceremony was the latest event in the WTA's 40 LOVE campaign, marking the 40th anniversary since Billie Jean King and her fellow revolutionaries transformed the sporting landscape by launching the Women's Tennis Association in 1973.
Before Navratilova and company made their way onto the terre battue, two current greats, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka wrote the latest chapter in their burgeoning rivalry, and after the match both players touched on the WTA's history and also its modern day role.
"It's an incredible thing what happened 40 years ago," Azarenka said. "They started something from scratch and look where we are here today - we are the biggest women's sport in the world.
"So it's definitely something that I'm so proud of, being a part of this community. We can't thank enough the co-founders and people who made it happen. It's been an incredible ride, and I feel like it's our job to just keep moving forward and keep growing the sport and just really help promote women's tennis and women's sports overall."
Sharapova was equally effusive in her praise of the sport and its global reach. "I have been on the tour for many years now, and I have seen it grow and change and go through a few different CEOs," she said. "It's gone through a lot, and I think all in a positive direction.
"I think tennis as a whole is an incredibly huge worldwide sport. To see where the women are today in terms of just global recognition and what we do and the amounts of different markets that like to watch us, that show us on TV, that host events and tournaments, I'm really proud to be part of it."