Entertainment

Sue Barker in tearful farewell after hosting BBC Wimbledon coverage for 30 years

Billie Jean King declared Barker ‘the best ever' during an emotional send-off celebration.

Sue Barker has bid a tearful farewell to Wimbledon after 30 years of presenting coverage of the tennis event for the BBC, calling it an “absolute privilege”.

Before becoming a presenter, Barker, 66, was a professional tennis player and achieved a Grand Slam singles title after winning the French Open in 1976.

To mark Barker stepping down from her role fronting the annual sporting showpiece, commentator and former Wimbledon champion John McEnroe introduced a film of Barker’s highlights, both as a player and a presenter.

During the film many famous faces from the tennis world and further afield in sport sent their well wishes to Barker.

Former tennis player Tim Henman said: “I think my final message to Sue is that I’ll miss her massively, professionally.

“She’s been here every Wimbledon that I’ve ever been involved in as a professional player and now working on the tournament side and for the BBC.

“We’ll miss her massively but hopefully it’ll give her more time to get to the royal box in the evening and have a few more glasses of champagne. So I look forward to that.”

Former world number one tennis player Billie Jean King said: “Sue you know I’m upset you’re leaving, right?

“I know you have to. I’m probably leaving too, don’t worry.

“Anyway, thank you for everything. And I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens in the next chapter of your life and just go for it.”

After the film drew to a close Barker was visibly moved and cried as her fellow presenters continued to praise her for her achievements.

King said: “She’s the GOAT. Best ever.”

Presenter Clare Balding also appeared to choke up as she wished Barker well.

“And I think it’s fair to say, we’ve broken her,” Balding, 51, added.

Barker managed to get a couple of sentences out despite her tears, saying: “It’s been an absolute privilege. I’ve loved it. Thirty amazing years. Thank you.”

A crowd of Wimbledon fans gathered below the commentary box and could be heard clapping, cheering and chanting Barker’s name.

During the film charting Barker’s career, the 2022 Wimbledon men’s singles champion Novak Djokovic said: “Sue please don’t leave. I heard bad news today that after 30 years you decided to finish.

“You are probably the most legendary broadcaster for tennis in Great Britain, so tennis is going to miss you, I’m going to miss you and miss the interviews.

“Hopefully I get a chance to have at least one interview with you before you leave. So I get to say goodbye to you in person.

“Thank you for everything you’ve done and contributed to our sport.”

Former Wimbledon champion Andy Murray said: “Hi Sue, I just wanted to send you a message to wish you a happy retirement.

“You’ve been amazing for our sport and I’ve always, well I’ve grown up watching you on the TV, and then obviously I’ve been interviewed by you many times.

“I’ve loved watching you on Question Of Sport as well. You’re going to be sadly missed by everyone who loves and watches tennis in this country.

“We’re all sad about it but yeah, all the best in your retirement.”

The tributes continued online as Channel 5 News presenter Dan Walker tweeted: “What a super star Sue Barker is. Knowledgeable, insightful, caring, calm, respected… just a brilliant broadcaster.”

“Long may she reign.”

Television presenter Sue Perkins wrote: “I’m going to miss Sue Barker so much. What a champ. Thank you for being in my living room for thirty years.”

Eamonn Holmes tweeted: “#SueBarker class and elegant act.”

Vernon Kay kept his message short and sweet, tweeting: “Sue Barker….legend.”