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Ross King: Pass the Pimm’s! I’ve swapped LA for SW19 as an old friend Sue Barker calls time on glorious career

© Back Page Images/ShutterstockSue Barker and Andy Murray at Wimbledon.
Sue Barker and Andy Murray at Wimbledon.

It’s hello and goodbye from Wimbledon this year. The tournament is a tale of two women – one who learned her trade here in Los Angeles and is making her long-awaited comeback on the famous Centre Court, and another who is a close friend of mine, who is saying a fond farewell.

I’ll be visiting SW19 with my family this weekend thanks to the latter and I can’t wait.

First is the heroic return of Serena Williams. The 23-time grand-slam champ has not played professionally since she was injured at Wimbledon last year and she’s been added to the tournament as a wild card.

I’m a huge tennis fan and I’m buzzing to see her play once more at a tournament she has dominated in the past.

Serena and sister Venus come from Michigan but moved to Los Angeles at a young age where they learned tennis while being coached by their father, Richard. That journey was turned into a movie, King Richard, starring Will Smith; he won an Oscar for it…anyone remember that ceremony? No…?

Serena has been busy this year despite being injured. She has invested in a women’s football team here in LA and started her own venture capital firm. She was also linked with a failed bid to buy Chelsea. Not bad for someone on sick leave!

One person delighted to be covering Serena’s comeback is the brilliant Sue Barker, who is gearing up for her final stint as presenter of the BBC’s Wimbledon coverage.

The very first time I went to Wimbledon was as a 12-year-old and only got as far as the Tube station as we didn’t have tickets. Next time the King family queued for hours and eventually we got in to watch the action on the outside courts.

Now, thanks to my good pal Sue, this weekend my family and I will be watching the action on Centre Court, and I’ll be back for the men’s singles final before heading back to LA.

This incredible lady has had two incredible careers: one as a tennis player reaching No 3 in the world and secondly as one of our finest ever and most-loved broadcasters, the face of the BBC’s tennis programming.

I asked Sue last week if this will be the last we see of her round the famous grass courts.

“I will go back every year as I am a member of the club. This has made my decision easier as I don’t have to say goodbye to Wimbledon,” she told me.

“I want to watch the British players on outside courts and also the Juniors.

“During my 30 years, because I’m moving around the grounds or sitting in the studio, I hardly ever get to watch tennis from the stands.

“I haven’t been court-side for any final during that time. That will change next year, but only if I can wrestle my ticket off you…”

I’m thrilled for all that my pal Susie B has achieved, a true icon.

Her autobiography, Calling The Shots, will be out in September, so another sit down is on the cards…I cannot wait!