Tennis stars have bid an emotional farewell to Sue Barker as she said she wished she could front the BBC’s Wimbledon coverage for another three decades.
The 66-year-old was reduced to tears on Sunday after players including Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Billie Jean King called her “simply the best” in a moving tribute.
The former French Open champion had earlier walked off Centre Court for the last time with little fanfare, after 30 years of presenting the BBC’s Wimbledon coverage.
Fans said it was “shocking” that her departure was not marked on court after top seed Novak Djokovic’s victory over Australia’s Nick Kyrgios. But John McEnroe later introduced a package of Barker’s highlights, as a player and a presenter, saying: “It’s time to say goodbye and farewell to the wonderful Susan Barker; [it’s] no easy job, I’ll tell you that. You see the thing about our Sue, she just is Wimbledon.”
Two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray said of Barker: “You’ve been amazing for our sport. 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.”
Federer, the 20-time grand slam champion, said Barker had made him cry “maybe not only once but several times”. “Thank you for those incredible 30 years and everything you’ve done for the game of tennis,” he added.
Former world No 1 Chris Evert described Barker as an “outspoken, articulate, wonderfully knowledgable tennis presenter”, adding: “I don’t think I want to come back to Wimbledon if I’m not going to hear Sue Barker. But Sue, you had a tremendous career. You’re a wonderful person with integrity and I wish you the best of luck. Go have some fun with your husband, and I hope we can always be friends.”
Tim Henman added: “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.”
Barker wept after the moving tribute as she was joined by Henman, King, McEnroe, broadcaster Clare Balding and former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash at SW19. And fans lined up to chant “we love you Sue, we do” as the moving tribute was played. “It’s been an absolutely privilege, I’ve loved it, 30 amazing years, thank you,” she said as she wiped away tears. “I’ll miss the job, I wish I had the next 30 years to do it. I love it. Most of all I’m going to miss the people I work with, in front of the camera, behind the camera, you have been absolutely amazing. I’ve been so proud to front the programme.”
King called Barker “the Goat” while Balding fought back tears as she paid tribute to the presenter’s professionalism, warmth and honesty. McEnroe gave Barker a final hug on Centre Court in the lead-up to the men’s final between Djokovic and Kyrgios.
“Before I go I want to give you one last hug, Sue,” he said. “Thank you for everything. You’ve been amazing, unbelievable, we’re going to miss you absolutely big time, you’re like the Roger Federer of the broadcasting world.”
Barker, who first presented Wimbledon in 1993, had been offered a three-year contract extension by the BBC but she vowed to bow out on top and announced her retirement last month.