There are very few people who know Wimbledon quite like Sue Barker. A regular feature at the tournament as a player in the 70’s and 80’s, reaching the semi-final in 1977; Sue has also spent the last 27 years as a presenter on the BBC’s lead broadcast.
In her time at the BBC Sue has played a huge in part of some of the most iconic moments in the event’s rich history, including both of Andy Murray’s singles Championships.
This year, in the absence of live action from Wimbledon, the BBC will be showing classic matches throughout the years across a number of unique shows, including the ‘Wimbledon: The Best of the Championships’. Recently we caught up with Sue to hear about all her favourite memories of the tournament as a player and a broadcaster and what she will miss most about the championships this year.
What is it that makes Wimbledon such a special event for you?
“I grew up watching Wimbledon and when I was playing against my garage wall at home I was always playing on Centre Court. I had the privilege of going with my school at the age of 12 and had my photo taken under the ivy and it was just such a magical place.
“Whenever I’ve been there, as a player, fan or broadcaster, I get such a buzz as I go through those gates.”
“There’s just something different about Wimbledon than other events and you can’t quite put your finger on it. I think there is something in knowing that you are walking where the greats of the game have walked and whenever I’ve been there, as a player, fan or broadcaster, I get such a buzz as I go through those gates. I think for the majority of players it’s the one they want to win the most.”
What will you miss the most from being at the Championships this year?
“It’s the atmosphere, the roars of the crowd – we’re always around where Henman Hill is so we can always see fans watching on the screen with great cheers going up all over the place. There’s just such a buzz around the whole place when the tournament is on.
“I’ll miss just being there with people like Mac (John McEnroe), Boris (Becker), Tim (Henman), Andy Castle and everyone.”
What is your favourite match or moment from Wimbledon over the years?
“The stand out moment has to be watching Andy (Murray) walk up to collect the trophy – nothing will ever compare to that! What an atmosphere there was on that day, not just on Centre Court but on Henman Hill and around the grounds, it was incredible. To come back and win it after 2012 was an unbelievable achievement.
“The magical match though has to be that 2008 final between Rafa and Roger (Federer). Walking out onto Centre Court after that one I could hardly see the players so I don’t know how they could see the ball, it was that dark! What a match that was, what tennis that was.
“And of course Virginia winning, as much as that should have been my year but I lost in the semi-final, there’s something really special about having a British winner. I’ve loved talking to her about it over the years and no doubt I will again this year so she can rub it in again!”
How special has it been for you to cover Andy over the course of his career?
“Tim did fantastically well reaching 4 Grand Slam semi-finals, but for Andy to get over the line, especially with all the pressure on him at Wimbledon in 2013, was truly remarkable. Then to carry it on as well, winning 2 Olympic golds, the US Open, the Davis Cup in 2015, has just been one glorious moment after another.
“If he’s physically fit he’ll be back up at the top of the game.”
“I just hope he’s ok and this time off has given him chance to recover because you know with his mentality towards the game, if he’s physically fit he’ll be back up at the top of the game.”
Who do you think would have won the men’s and women’s singles titles this year?
“I would have gone for Djokovic and then probably Serena in the women’s – she’s been so close to getting the 24th slam for so long, she just has to.”
What are you most looking forward to when Wimbledon returns next year?
“Do you know, I think it’s just seeing all my old mates again, because Wimbledon is just like a magnet for everyone. I’ve grown up with all these people and it’s amazing to then work with them at the event as well.
“I think the tennis is just so exciting at the moment as well. In the men’s game there’s the battle for who will win the most slams and in the women’s I think there’s a real changing of the guard at the moment. It will be amazing to see all the players – the tournament is always magical and we just need the stories.”