Wimbledon legend Sue Barker has enjoyed a stunning career on the court and in the booth at the Championships – but her time as a player was almost cut short when she nearly went blind after being bitten by a dog.
The latest edition of the SW19 Grand Slam will mark the end of an era as Barker is set to step down after 30 years of hosting the tournament's coverage on the BBC. The 66-year-old has been synonymous with coverage of Wimbledon as she has dominated British television screens during the summer on an annual basis.
While she has forged a star career as a broadcaster, she was a fine player after turning professional in 1973. In 1976, Barker won her first singles title while she also reached the semi-final of the Australian Open in the same year.
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The biggest moment of her career came in 1976 when she triumphed at Roland Garros to claim the first – and what would prove to be the only – major title of her career. A year later, Barker reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon but lost to Betty Stove with Virginia Wade eventually securing the title.
She reached a career-high ranking of World No. 3 and could have perhaps won more than the 15 WTA titles she secured but for injuries. Barker revealed she was bitten in the face by a dog in 1980 – and her career was nearly ended prematurely as a result.
“I was attacked by a dog in Spain and was temporarily blinded in one eye – I thought it would end my tennis career,” Barker told The Daily Mail. “I was quarantined for rabies, had 25 stitches around my eye, cheek and inside my mouth, and had reconstructive surgery.
“For a long time I was terrified of dogs.”
Barker transitioned into broadcasting as she hosted Wimbledon highlights win the BBC alongside Harry Carpenter before eventually claiming the lead presenter’s role six years later. She also hosted Question of Sport while leading coverage of the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, World Athletics Championships and the London Marathon among others.
However, Barker will always be tied to Wimbledon. She believes the time is right for her to step down as the face of the tournament’s coverage.
Discussing her decision, Barker said: “It has been my dream job and I have loved every minute of it. I’m very happy to be leaving with no regrets.”
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