Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray were among many that surprised presenter Sue Barker during an emotional montage dedicated to the former French Open winner, who is stepping down from the BBC’s broadcast after a 30-year long association with the tournament. Tim Henman stopped Barker live on air after Novak Djokovic’s final victory over Nick Kyrgios, and said that while he doesn’t enjoy interrupting her, he and John McEnroe had a special message for the presenter.
The broadcast cut to a montage commemorating Barker, which McEnroe voiced and led tributes alongside tennis greats such as Billie Jean King, Virginia Wade, Pete Sampras and Chris Evert.
Barker was clearly moved by the montage, she was in tears and consoled as Jean King and Clare Balding joined the broadcast next to Henman Hill, where fans chanted “Sue, Sue, Sue!” Jean King declared Barker “the GOAT!”, while Henman gave her an open invitation to the royal box at SW19 with plenty of champagne.
The broadcasting legend fought through the tears to give her thanks to her colleagues and tennis fans. “Can I just say it has been an absolute privilege to do this job,” Barker said. “I have loved it, 30 amazing years.” She later added: “I’ll miss the job, I wish I had another 30 years to do it… I’ve been so proud to front the programme.”
Barker hosted her first Wimbledon for the BBC in 1993 when she became the first woman to be a lead presenter at a major sporting event for the BBC, and has fronted the coverage ever since.
McEnroe gave Barker a big hug before Djokovic’s 4-6 6-3 6-4 7-6 (7-3) win over Kyrgios, and once again jokingly asked her to stay on before thanking her. “Before I go I want to give you one last hug Sue,” McEnroe said during the BBC’s Wimbledon final coverage. “Thank you for everything you have been amazing, unbelievable, we are going to miss you. You are like the Roger Federer of the broadcasting world.”
Former world No 4 Pat Cash, on the BBC broadcast with Barker, McEnroe, Henman, Jean King and Balding, explained what made Barker so great.
“You make us feel comfortable, and I am sure you have been flustered but you are Novak Djokovic out there, you don’t look flustered and it’s a great quality to have when you sit down and have a chat about tennis. You made us feel comfortable, you made us feel loved.”
Jean King added: “You’re a fellow player, I think that’s what makes us feel so comfortable. We know you have been through it, so we go ‘Oh she knows, she gets it’, the highs and lows and all that goes with it.” McEnroe then joked: “How did she make us look good over all these years?”