Sue Barker on tennis, presenting and Wimbledon
One of the county's best loved TV personalities, Surrey's Sue Barker will once again be at the helm of this year's BBC coverage of Wimbledon. The popular presenter, who lives near Godalming, tells us how she copes with her gruelling schedule.
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine June 2007
by Caroline Harrap
As the main anchor of the BBC's Wimbledon coverage, Sue Barker is certainly going to have her work cut out over the next couple of weeks. But, rest assured, no matter how frantic things get behind the camera, she will be the calm at the centre of the storm, taking it all in her stride.
One of the most experienced women in broadcasting, she was voted Sports Broadcaster of the Year in 1998 and 1999, and her extraordinary contribution to the sporting world was recognised with an MBE in 2000.
"I feel very lucky that I was able to move on to a job that I enjoy as much as my tennis career," says the 50-year-old, who lives with her husband, Lance Tankard, near Godalming." Very few people have one career they love, let alone two.
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"I've also been able to witness many fantastic sporting moments over the years with my favourite probably the 2001 Wimbledon final between Pat Rafter and Goran Ivanisevic. It had a thrilling fifth set and was very exciting to watch."
A former British No.1 herself, Sue has had her own fair share of special sporting moments. Ranked No.3 in the world in 1976, her many achievements include winning the French Open Singles Championships, as well as being a Wimbledon Semi-Finalist, a three-times Australian Open Semi-Finalist and a World Doubles Champion.
"I grew up in a very sporty family and fell in love with tennis at the age of six," she says. "I started playing at school and at the local public courts and imagined the garage wall was Centre Court at Wimbledon, dreaming of playing there one day. When you take pleasure in a sport as much as I did, it spurs you on to be the very best you can and I was lucky enough to turn the hobby that I loved into a successful career."
At 28, with a weak Achilles and shin splints in both legs, Sue realised it was time to retire from tennis and moved into presenting almost by accident. Her television career has since seen her become a regular at Wimbledon, cover The Olympics and present Grandstand and BBC sports quiz A Question of Sport.
"I never really decided to go into broadcasting," she says. "At the time, Bob Wilson was the only other sports person who had gone on to become a presenter, but I was approached to have a go and the rest is history. I've been at the BBC since 1993."
While she may not be playing tennis professionally any longer, Sue continues to make health and fitness a priority. "Even when I retired from tennis, it didn't seem right if I wasn't playing or training and that has very much stayed with me," she says. "It's vitally important to me that even later in life, I stay fit and focused.
"During the winter, I try to exercise at least three times a week at the gym and in the summer, I like to get outdoors. I live in the Surrey countryside and love jogging along the country lanes; they are so much more attractive than busy roads. I also enjoy cycling and walking my dogs."
She is certainly going to need every ounce of energy over the next couple of weeks. As the main anchorwoman for the BBC's coverage of Wimbledon, the demands of live commentary mean she has to be ready for anything.
"Because so much of my job involves thinking on my feet and interpreting sporting statistics, I've become increasingly aware of the need to look after my mental ability and can't always rely on food to provide me with all the nutrients I need," says Sue. "I've taken fish oil supplements for quite some time, to specifically help boost my concentration and keep my memory sharp.
"For me, it's a question of self preservation - while I can't fight time I can help myself stay fit and focused through good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.
"A key challenge for me is to be ready for any situation. If you are fully prepared at a live event then nothing will faze you. Sport often throws up surprises on or off the court, course or pitch and you have to be able to react fast and cope with any pressures."
Asked if she has any ambitions yet to fulfil, she replies: "I can honestly say that I don't. I had such an adrenalin rush playing tennis that I don't think anything else could ever come that close."