Clare Balding pays emotional tribute to retiring Sue Barker
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Sue Barker bid an emotional farewell to Wimbledon this year after 30 years of fronting the BBC’s coverage of the Championships. The former World No 3 first presented the broadcaster’s coverage in 1993 but has now retired after reportedly rejecting a new three-year contract that would have taken her to 2025.
For several generations of tennis fans, the 66-year-old became the face of Wimbledon and a statement by the tournament admitted it will “not quite feel the same” without the former French Open champion anchoring the BBC’s broadcasts.
Barker, who also presented A Question Of Sport until 2020, revealed her decision to retire in June. She said that the time felt right.
“What a wonderful time I’ve had working on some of the biggest sporting events around the world. I will miss it terribly but after 30 years I feel the time is right for me. I’ve worked with the best of the best,” Barker said in an official BBC statement.
The death of her mum Betty, aged 100, earlier this year played a role in Barker’s decision to step away from presenting. She said: “My mum was always so interested in my broadcasting career. And we would speak every evening. When something like that happens it does make you reassess life, which is another reason I think this is the right time.”
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Barker went on to tell the Daily Mail that she had actually considered quitting five years prior: “Basically I just feel the time is right. It has been my dream job and I have loved every minute of it, working with so many great colleagues who I am going to miss so much.
“When I started I never thought I would manage 30 years. I had actually made up my mind to leave in 2017 because the hours were becoming very long and quite challenging.
“That would have been 25 years and seemed a good time, but I am so glad I made the decision to stay on. I’m very happy to be leaving with no regrets and on my own terms while I am still on top of the job, it just feels like the right time to go and leave it to others.”
On the final day of Wimbledon, with Novak Djokovic and Elena Rybakina winning the men’s and women’s singles titles respectively, tributes were paid to Barker. Fellow BBC stalwart John McEnroe landed himself in hot water with the legendary presenter for going ‘off-script’.
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McEnroe said: “Sue, one final word. On behalf of all the players, I just want to say that we’re going to be lost without you. After 30 years of covering this tournament magnificently, please give it up for Sue Barker.”
Barker jokingly snapped back: “Thank you so much but this is about the tournament. All I can say is from now on John McEnroe is going to be commentating on Court 17 after that, [for] going off script.”
As the programme drew to a close, Barker was visibly emotional as she was consoled by colleagues. She managed to muster a goodbye to viewers, saying: “Ah, this is going to be embarrassing. It’s been an absolute privilege – I’ve loved it, 30 amazing years, thank you. I’ll miss the job.
“I wish I had the next 30 years because I love it but most of all I’m going to miss the people I work with in front of the camera, behind the camera. You’ve just been absolutely amazing. I’ve just been so proud to front the programme. Thank you.”
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