Sue Barker - Credit: Steve Punter

Paignton's Sue Barker to step away from broadcasting role with 'no regrets'

Dave Thomas

Paignton's Sue Barker, the shy tennis champion who has become one of the best-loved presenters on British television, has announced that this year's Wimbledon Championships (June 27) will be her last as the BBC's 'anchor' at the tournament (writes Dave Thomas).

Barker (MBE, OBE, CBE), 66, is stepping down from her role after nearly 30 years of broadcasting - she first partnered the late Harry Carpenter in hosting the BBC's coverage of Wimbledon in 1993 - which has outstripped even her own successful playing career.

The 1976 French Open champion, whose blistering forehand helped to beat all the top stars of the 70s and 80s, also reached the Wimbledon semi-finals in 1977, when she was ranked No.3 in the world.

A life in front of the cameras seemed an unlikely option when Barker retired from playing, for the former convent pupil, whose early career was nurtured by coaching genius Arthur Roberts at Torquay's Palace Hotel courts, had always fought to maintain her confidence on court.

But she has overcome any of those fears, mastering her 'second' profession with a winning combination of sympathy, humour, knowledge and a refusal to take herself too seriously.

Barker has presented a wide range of events including Olympic Games, World and European Championships in a variety of sports, public occasions, Sports Personality Of The Year shows and 23 years of holding the hugely popular A Question Of Sport quiz show together, until the still-controversial decision to 'revamp' the programme in 2020.

The BBC reportedly offered her a new three-year contract, but she turned it down, explaining that the death of her mother Betty at 100 earlier this year influenced her decision.

"My mum was always so interested in my broadcasting career, and we would speak every evening," she said.

"When something like that happens, it does make you reassess your life, which is another reason I think this is the right time.

"It has been my dream job and I have loved every minute of it.

"I am very happy to be leaving with no regrets and on my own terms."