Sue Barker will retire as presenter of the BBC’s Wimbledon coverage at the end of this year’s tournament, the broadcaster has announced.
The former professional tennis player, 66, said she will “miss it terribly” but after 30 years at the helm of live sports broadcasting feels “the time is right” to take a step back.
The former French Open winner said: “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.”
BBC director-general Tim Davie praised Barker, saying her efforts in “blazing a trail for women in broadcasting cannot be overstated”.
In 2021 Barker ended her long-standing role as presenter of the BBC’s A Question of Sport after 24 years at the helm, as part of a major shake-up of the TV quiz.
Born and raised in Paignton, Devon, Barker started playing tennis at the age of 10 and moved to the United States as a teenager to further her development.
She won 11 WTA Tour singles titles and remains the last British woman to win the French Open, her only Grand Slam triumph which she claimed in 1976 at age 20.
Having battled injury set-backs, Barker retired from playing in 1984 and soon moved into broadcasting, initially for Australia’s Channel 7 and then BSkyB.
She went on to be the first woman to lead the presenting helm for a major sports event on the BBC.
During her career spanning three decades with the broadcaster, she has presented a range of events including Queen’s tennis, Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, World Athletics Championships, the London Marathon, the Grand National, Royal Ascot.
She also hosted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards from 1994 until 2012.
She was made a CBE for services to sport, broadcasting and charity in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2021.
Ahead of the investiture in February, she told the PA news agency said she felt “absolutely terrified” about the ceremony with the Duke of Cambridge at Windsor Castle and would “much rather” interview the Wimbledon finalists.
She has also been honoured for her role as honorary life president of Muscular Dystrophy UK.
Davie said in a statement: “Sue Barker has been the face and voice of Wimbledon for three decades.
“Many of our viewers will not know of a summer in SW19 without her. She is a consummate professional, an outstanding presenter and a wonderful colleague, loved by current and former players, all of us at the BBC and audiences across the UK and beyond.
“Her contribution to tennis, the BBC, sports presenting and for blazing a trail for women in broadcasting cannot be overstated. We are looking forward to her leading our coverage, with all the style, warmth and knowledge she has displayed for the last 30 years, and we will say farewell with heavy hearts at the end of the tournament.”
Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport, added: “Sue is a national treasure and we’d have loved for her to continue in her role for many years to come.
“We do of course respect her decision and understand why, after 30 years of leading Wimbledon presentation, she’s ready to make this year her last. We thank Sue for the remarkable contribution she has made to sports broadcasting during what has been a truly extraordinary and illustrious career.
“A consummate professional who audiences will remember for her skill, authority and warmth on screen, Sue will be equally remembered with fondness and affection by colleagues who had the privilege to work alongside her, experiencing the same professionalism and warmth behind the scenes.”
Sports minister Nigel Huddleston paid tribute to Barker’s accomplishments in a tweet where he listed his “classic elements” of Wimbledon which included the veteran sports presenter.
He added: “We will miss you after 30 years of top class commentary, Sue. This final year will be special!”
The Lawn Tennis Association thanked Barker for her “incredible work” in a tweet.
It added: “She has become synonymous with the world’s premier grass court tennis event, and it seems only fitting that she will sign off after the culmination of this year’s Championships on Sunday 10 July.”
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