Sue Barker calls game, set and match after 30 years of Wimbledon

EXCLUSIVE: Game, set and match! Sue Barker QUITS BBC Wimbledon coverage after 30 years because she ‘wants to leave on a high’

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Sue Barker has announced her retirement as the face of the BBC‘s Wimbledon coverage after 30 years. 

The presenter, 66, was offered a three-year extension to stay on, but after several months’ thought she decided it was time to hang up the microphone. 

Speaking to Mail+ tennis correspondent Mike Dickson, Barker described the role as ‘my dream job’ and said she had ‘loved every minute of it’.

But she felt now was the right time to leave ‘on my own terms while I am still on top of the job’. 

Barker also revealed that the passing of her mother earlier this year was a factor in making the choice. 

Read the full story on the Mail+ by clicking HERE. 

Sue Barker with Novak Djokovic after he won the Men’s Singles Final in 2018 (left) and in 1999 (right) 

How Sue Barker racked up 23 tennis titles and climbed to World No 3 after winning the French Open – before becoming ‘the voice of Wimbledon for three decades’

By Kaya Terry for MailOnline 

Sue Barker has called time on her role as a veteran BBC presenter of the Wimbledon coverage following this year’s tournament – after 30 years with the broadcaster.

The 66-year-old has been a trailblazer for female sports presenters and fronted many of the BBC’s legendary sports programmes over three decades.

Barker, of Paignton, Devon, started playing tennis when she was just 10 years old and began attending the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, which she sits on the board of alongside other Wimbledon stars.

A tennis-mad PE teacher took a party from her school to the legendary club in Devon by minibus, going there and back in a day.

Sue Barker, of Paignton, Devon, started playing tennis when she was just 10 years old and began attending the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, which she sits on the board of alongside other Wimbledon stars

Barker subsequently made her playing debut there aged 16, and has not missed a year since – usually as a great British hope or working in television. 

After starting her career as a professional tennis player, Barker went on to win 11 WTA Tour singles titles and one Grand Slam after triumphing at the 1976 French Open.

She became LTA Colour Holder – designed to acknowledge and celebrate players who have represented Great Britain at tennis – after representing the UK in what is now the Billie Jean King Cup in 27 ties.

Barker reached one final match in 1980 and won the last singles title of her career at the Brighton International in 1981, finishing the year ranked as World No. 16. She won her last doubles title match in 1982 at Cincinnati and played her last professional tennis game in 1984. 

Upon retiring from tennis, Barker became a commentator and sports reporter for Australia’s Channel 7 in 1985 before going on to anchor tennis coverage for Sky between 1990 to 1993. 

Meanwhile, Barker broke off an engagement with Australian tennis player Syd Ball in 1978.

In an interview the following year, she said: ‘I realised that Syd wasn’t the answer. Underneath, I wasn’t happy and I certainly wasn’t ready for marriage. I wasn’t fair to him or myself.’

Four years later, she started a relationship with Cliff Richard. It attracted the attention of fans across the world when the singer was spotted in Denmark watching her play a match.

Recently, Cliff revealed he nearly asked Barker to marry him ‘but in the end I realised that I didn’t love her quite enough to commit the rest of my life to her.’

The tennis legend later married landscape gardener and former policeman, Lance Tankard in 1988.

Andy Murray holds the Wimbledon trophy as he is interviewed by Sue Barker following his victory in the Men’s Singles Final against Milos Raonic of Canada in 2016

Upon retiring from tennis, she became a commentator and sports reporter for Australia’s channel 7, before going on to anchor tennis coverage for British Sky Broadcasting. She then joined the BBC team to present their Wimbledon coverage and has anchored the two-week long broadcast ever since. 

Barker co-presented coverage of Prince Edward’s wedding to Sophie, Countess of Wessex, in June 1999 alongside Michael Buerk in Windsor. Reportedly, Barker introduced the countess to the 96-year-old monarch’s youngest son at a charity function a few years earlier.

She became the presenter of the long-running sports quiz show A Question of Sport in 1997, having replaced the late David Coleman. She retired as QoS presenter following the BBC’s decision to revamp the show; having recorded her last episode in September 2020.

Barker has since led coverage of the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, athletics, racing and the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards from 1994 until 2012.

BBC director general Tim Davie said Barker’s ‘contribution to tennis, the BBC, sports presenting and for blazing a trail for women in broadcasting cannot be overstated’.

‘Sue Barker has been the face and voice of Wimbledon for three decades,’ Davie added.

‘Many of our viewers will not know of a summer in SW19 without her. She is a consummate professional, an outstanding presenter and a wonderful colleague, loved by current and former players, all of us at the BBC and audiences across the UK and beyond.’

BBC Sport director Barbara Slater described Barker as ‘a national treasure’, adding: ‘We’d have loved for her to continue in her role for many years to come.

‘We do of course respect her decision and understand why, after 30 years of leading Wimbledon presentation, she’s ready to make this year her last.

‘A consummate professional who audiences will remember for her skill, authority and warmth on screen, Sue will be equally remembered with fondness and affection by colleagues who had the privilege to work alongside her, experiencing the same professionalism and warmth behind the scenes.’  

Barker and the BBC extended her contract in 2008 to cover the London 2012 Olympic Games – estimated to be worth £375,000 a year.

By 2012, Sue provided live coverage of the London 2012 Olympics as the BBC’s anchor in the prime-time early evening slot. She was awarded an OBE in 2016 for services to Broadcasting and Charity. 

Sadly, the TV legend stepped down from her role as host of A Question of Sport after 24 years; she stated that she was ‘sad to say goodbye’.

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