Sue Barker Obituary, Death – Sue Baker, the TV icon of the 1980s, passed away at the age of 67 after a battle with motor neurone disease. Sue was a former British television personality and professional tennis player. Barker won 15 WTA Tour singles titles during her career, including a major singles win at the 1976 French Open. Her highest career singles ranking was third in the world. Sue began her career as a tennis presenter for the BBC in 1993 and began covering the Wimbledon tennis championships the following year; she departed this post after the 2022 Wimbledon Championships. Barker was previously the host of A Question of Sport.
Sue was born on April 19, 1956, in Paignton, Devon, and attended a convent school. When she was 10 years old, she was chosen as the second of two girls to receive tennis lessons from Arthur Roberts, who had previously taught Angela Mortimer to three Grand Slam victories. After her commitment to the selection prize was fulfilled, Roberts continued to train her, charging only £1 per session to allow her growth to continue. Throughout her career, Barker’s forehand was her most powerful and admired weapon, with Roberts characterizing it as “particularly potent.” When a visiting LTA coach advised her to strengthen her forehand as a teenager, Roberts urged her not to, and he eventually resigned from the LTA Coaches Association in protest.
Sue was then entered into competitions throughout the continent by Roberts, who gave her a one-way ticket and told her to “earn your ticket home.” Throughout her career, Roberts remained Barker’s mentor. Sue, who was 16 at the time and ranked 21st in the WTA rankings, was pushed by Roberts to relocate to the United States for further growth. On her 17th birthday, she was signed by Mark McCormack’s International Management Group (IMG) and relocated to a townhouse provided by IMG in Newport Beach, California, where her neighbors included the recently retired Rod Laver, and she was coached at the John Wayne Tennis Club.
In 1973 and 1974, she defeated Annette Coe in the Exmouth Open in Exmouth, Devon. Barker won her first top-level singles title, as well as three more, in 1975. Barker achieved her first Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open in 1975. She won the German Open in 1976, defeating Renáta Tomanová of Czechoslovakia 6-3, 6-1 in the final. Later same year, at the age of 20, Barker won the French Open, defeating Tomanová in the final for the second time. Sue expected her victory over Tomanová at the French Open to be the first of many Grand Slam titles for her, but she never reached another Grand Slam final in her career.
Barker won two singles titles in 1977, in San Francisco and Dallas. She defeated Martina Navratilova in the semifinals of the Virginia Slims Tour Championships before falling to Chris Evert in three sets. In 1977, Barker reached his second Australian Open semi-final and his first Wimbledon semi-final. She appeared to be on her way to facing Virginia Wade in the Wimbledon final in 1977, but she was eliminated in the semi-finals by Dutchwoman Betty Stöve. Years later, Sue admitted that losing to Stöve was the biggest disappointment in her career, and that she was so distraught about losing in the Wimbledon semi-finals in 1977 that she couldn’t bear watching the final, which Wade won.
Following an injury-plagued 1978 in which she dropped to World No. 24, she won three singles titles and reached three more finals in 1979. Her peers voted her “Comeback Player of the Year” for the tour. Barker reached one final in 1980 and won her final singles championship the following year at the Brighton International, finishing the year at No. 16 in the world. After winning her final doubles match in 1982 in Cincinnati, she retired from playing tennis in 1984. Sue defeated Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King, Evonne Goolagong, Tracy Austin, Virginia Wade, Maria Bueno, Rosemary Casals, Andrea Jaeger, and Pam Shriver among others. “I’m still tremendously proud of what I accomplished,” Barker remarked in 2004, recalling her 1976 French Open victory.