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Old Dec 28th, 2003, 07:33 PM   #1
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Sue Barker

I'm too young to remember if Sue Barker was actually a good tennis champion or not. I've always seen her presenting Wimbledon on TV in the UK and I know she once won the French Open back in the 70's, but is there anyone here who actually knows more or remembers her tennis career??

I dunno why I'm asking all this, I guess I'm just curious
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Old Dec 28th, 2003, 10:21 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Wimbledon
I'm too young to remember if Sue Barker was actually a good tennis champion or not. I've always seen her presenting Wimbledon on TV in the UK and I know she once won the French Open back in the 70's, but is there anyone here who actually knows more or remembers her tennis career??

I dunno why I'm asking all this, I guess I'm just curious

She was good, if erratic. She was three times an Australian semi-finalist, French champion in 1976, and a quarter-finalist at Wimbledon that year, then a semi-finalist the following year. Also was runner-up to Chris Evert at the Slims Championships of 1977. The WTA Tour Guides list her as having won 21 titles. She finished in the Top Ten on the computer rankings three years ('76, '77, '79) and a few not too far away. Her game was built largely on a fragile confidence, I felt, and a couple of bad losses could send her tail-spinning into a whole dismal spell. But she had some good wins - a very respectable three wins over Tracy Austin, three over Martina Navratilova, several over her arch-rival Virginia Wade, and she also beat Billie Jean King, Andrea Jaeger, and Chris Evert. She also beat Evonne Cawley twice. She had a glorious forehand when it worked, but struggled with injuries after her last good run on the circuit (in 1981, when she won Brighton) and retired prematurely at 28.

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Old Dec 29th, 2003, 06:21 PM   #3
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She managed to beat Navratilova 3 times??? wow!

Thanx for the info!
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Old Dec 29th, 2003, 07:13 PM   #4
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Whenever there's one of those 'whole careers affected by one match' threads I'm always tempted to write about Sue Barker. As I said, she climbed well into the Top Ten in 1976 following her German and French triumphs, and up to then her career was in a straight line upwards. 1977 started fantastically: she was finalist at three Slims tournaments that winter to Navratilova, but beat her at Hollywood and at the Slims Championships. She also won back-to-back tournaments in San Francisco and Dallas, beating Virginia Wade en-route to both titles. Then she took a set off Chris Evert in the Slims final, after defeating Betty Stove 6-0 6-1 and Martina. She was now firmly fourth on the WTA computer rankings, and was seeded fourth for Wimbledon. The British media firmly fancied her chances over Wade as the prominent British hope that year, and she was even featured as such on the front cover of "Radio Times" the week before Wimbledon. At Wimbledon she was in good form, and easily beat Kerry Reid in the Quarter-Finals to face Betty Stove in the semi-finals, after she'd upset Martina Navratilova. Virginia's semi against Chris Evert was played first and of course Virginia played one of the best matches of her career to win, in a huge upset. Sue must have seen her name on the plate: a semi-final against a much older and slower opponent in Betty, a player she'd creamed for the loss of one game in their previous encounter, and with a final against someone she'd won her last two matches against in straight sets! But she came out crippled by nerves and played a really inhibited and error-filled match and lost in three sets. It's not an exaggeration to say she was never the same player again...As I've said , Sue Barker could hit impressive patches where she could play close to her old, pre-Wimbledon '77 form, but the supreme confidence was lost forever. She always seemed more brittle thereafter, as if she'd blown her big chance......
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Old Dec 30th, 2003, 12:41 AM   #5
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I found this article in one of my old books, a Sports Illustrated article on the 1977 Virgnia Slims Championships by Joe Jares. Sue is mentioned


“Extra! Chrissie Loses First Set!”

Despite an uncharacteristic start in the title match, the golden girl of tennis reemphasized her overwhelming supremacy by overcoming Sue Barker of Devonshire and taking home the Virginia Slims Silver Ginny for the fourth time.

Never bet on the stooge team that tours with the Harlem Globetrotters. Do not place so much as a sou on the chances of sunshine in Seattle. God help you if you think Wylie E. Coyote will ever catch the Road Runner, that a ballplayer will volunteer for a pay cut after a bad season, or that a politician’s promise is worth more than a half ounce of bat liver. And, please, if you have any sense at all, never wager against a 22 year old tennis playing millionaires named Christine Marie Evert.

Last Sunday afternoon in New York’s Madison Square Garden, Evert, after a shaky start, played a normal sort of match for her-which is to say she was unerring and unflappable-and beat Sue Barker of England 2-6 6-1 6-1. She thereby on t he championship of the Virginia Slims tour, the Silver Ginny trophy for earning the most tour points, a diamond-and-gold necklace, and $50,000. Her 1977 tournament earnings, with nine and a half months to go: $174,500.

It was inevitable. Going into the four-day event, Evert had a 44-6 lifetime record against the three players in her half of the draw and 11-0 edge over Barker. On the tour she might as well have been playing against Neiman-Marcus mannequins, winning 32 of 34 matches, 64 of 71 sets and 69% of her games. Here was a young woman who already won Wimbledon twice, Forest Hills twice and the Slims championships thrice, yet there tennis experts in the Garden claiming that Evert was one of the most improved players on the tour. Impossible. But true.

“She wins a lot of points now off her first serve” said Rosie Casals, one of Evert’s Garden victims. “Whereas before, she just got it in. It was something to start out the game with.”

“She has a more subtle change of pace on her shots,” said ex-player Julie Heldman. “and she has a fine overhead now, she hammers it.”

“She’s hitting the ball so much harder” said the tour’s executive director, Peachy Kellmeyer. “I think she’s going to keep improving.”

There was more. Technical stuff, like how Evert cleverly disguises her drop shot, the tennis equivalent of a bunt laid down by a slugger. How she slices her backhand once in a while. How adept she is with a touch angle backhand, what ever that is. How she eluded the paparazzi and had a reasonably private dinner date in Manhattan with fellow Floridian Burt Reynolds, actor and hall-of-famer centerfolder.

All this means that Evert is rolling in money and is up to her long eyelashes in trophies, but that Virginia Slims and women’s tennis in general are stagnating a little. The four championship sessions in the Garden drew 39,234 significantly better than either of the last two years, when the event was held in Los Angeles, but average tournament attendance rose less than 1,000 over 1976. CBS televised four Slims finals in 1976 and beat the men’s Avis Challenge Cup ratings on NBC, but no Slims events were televised nationally this year. CBS apparently thought it could make more money with golf.

After seven years, the cigarette sponsor is still satisfied with the tour as a promotion/advertising vehicle, and promoters at most of the stops made money. Still, it is obvious that in order to fill more seats and lure back TV, women’s tennis needs to find some strong competition for Evert, or it will continue to have finals that have all the suspense of shark vs. sardine.

There are some prospects. Tracy Austin, the California wonder child, is not yet 15 but has played in several Slims tournaments and has won a few matches. Billie Jean King, the California wonder woman, returned to singles play last week at the age of 33. She wanted to be admitted to the Slims as a “wild card” selection but she was rejected because she had not played in any singles matches on the circuit. So she entered a San Antonio tournament and came close to meeting transsexual Renee Richards in the semis. CBS planned to televise their match but Richards was beaten in the quarters. After three knee operations, it will be difficult for King to reach the top level again.

Three more likely candidates are in the early 20’s. Evonne Goolagong, 25, is due back after having her first child in May; she was No. 2 in the world behind Evert when she became pregnant. Then there is the Czech defector Martina Navratilova, 20, the head of a corporation that used her tour nickname: Brat, Inc. Navratilova used to be shaped like a pilsener keg from her homeland, but she has shed 20 to 25 pounds (down to 145) and now has a discernible waist and evident additional quickness.

The third prospect is Barker, 20, the petite daughter of a retired brewery representative. Despite her size (5’5 117 pounds), her forehand is more powerful even than Navratilova’s. She grew up in Paignton, a smart Devonshire coastal resort. In nearby Torquay, Arthur Roberts a well-known English coach, taught her tennis and discipline and often sent her home in tears. She always came back.

Navratilova and, of course, Barker were among the eight women who made it to the championship tournament at the Garden. They were the principals in the Orange group, while Evert, Casals and Britain’s Virginia Wade were in the Gold. Each player met the other three in her group beginning Thursday night, then the top finisher in each group met in the final Sunday. Evert, as usual, had little trouble marching to the final, beating Yugoslavian economics student Mima Jausovec 6-0 6-3, and Casals 6-1 6-1 (“I don’t think I can play much better than that” Chris said afterward).

Evert, had a bit more to cope with in Wade, 31, who is not at all pleased the Barker has beaten her the last three times they have met and seems destined to replace atop Britain’s ladder. Evert beat Wade in straight sets, but the second set would have gone the way had not an Evert forehand shot hit the net and crawled over as if it had little hands and feet. Evert proceeded to win 10 straight points and the match 6-2 7-5.

In the Orange, Barker and Navratilova progressed undefeated to a Saturday meeting despite the fact that both had sore shoulders. Navratilova developed hers the previous week in the final of Philadelphia, when Evert made her hit “2,000 backhands” and it was obviously the more serious ailment. Barker beat Martina 7-5 6-4 and advanced to probably the most important match of her life, with $20,000 (the difference between first and second prize) at stake, not to mention, what the Slims PR people like to call the “the first jewel in the Triple Crown of women’s tennis,” Wimbledon and Forest Hills being the other two.

Some people felt Evert would win so easily that the most exciting part of the final would be opera star Roberta Peters singing the national anthem. But Evert was tight (she double-faulted four times in the first set) and Barker was blasting marvelous forehands winners. Barker won the set 6-2, only the eight Evert has lost this year.

The key game of the match was the first of the second set. Evert had to fight hard to win it after starting off with yet another double fault. From then on Barker, who could not maintain the high quality of her play in the first set, won only two more games. Her forehand shots, which are so powerful they seem to come off a man’s racquet rather than that of a frail-looking Devonshire lass, went into the net about as often as into her opponent’s court. After Evert had broken service to go ahead 4-1 in the third set, slamming a ball straight down with her racquet.

Thus Chris Evert won her eight major championship, once again showing little emotion. She keeps her emotions inside, along with concentration and determination that may already have made her the best woman player ever.

“I feel more than most players,” Evert says. “I have a drive. I have a burning desire to win every time I step on the tennis court.


Jay
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Old Dec 30th, 2003, 08:22 AM   #6
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She was my favourite player when I started following tennis. She was the Kournikova of the 1970s-80s in that she was very attractive and also could have achieved much more.
Yes, 1977 Wimbledon was the turnaround of her career. If there's one result I would want to change in tennis it would be her loss to Stove in the SF that year.
She was also slowed down by a dog bite on her face in 1980, she missed three-four months that year. She had a decent year in 1981, finishing in the Top 15 but she went downhill after that, she probably lost interest.
Barker was almost famous for her romances (Greg Norman, Cliff Richard...)
Most of you will know that she's now one of the best BBC presenters.
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Old Dec 30th, 2003, 11:06 AM   #7
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Yes, I love her presentation at BBC, at Wimbledon off course and also that TV program about sport, but I can't remember the name
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Old Dec 30th, 2003, 03:40 PM   #8
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Great article TennisFan75!

Declan's thoughts are very perceptive IMO. Sue never was the same player after that Wimbledon semi. She was really at her best in 1976-77, when she was arguably top 5 in the world.

I don't think her looks helped her tennis. Sue had a reputation for being a bit boy crazy, and her romance in 1977-78 with Syd Ball (not sure of the name-think he was a World Team tennis team mate) coincided with her first slide. They were engaged at one point then the romance soured.
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Old Dec 30th, 2003, 05:22 PM   #9
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Great article TennisFan75!

Declan's thoughts are very perceptive IMO. Sue never was the same player after that Wimbledon semi. She was really at her best in 1976-77, when she was arguably top 5 in the world.

I don't think her looks helped her tennis. Sue had a reputation for being a bit boy crazy, and her romance in 1977-78 with Syd Ball (not sure of the name-think he was a World Team tennis team mate) coincided with her first slide. They were engaged at one point then the romance soured.

Thanks Rollo! Yes, she was engaged to Syd Ball in 1978. The following year she was on the front page of the British papers with her boyfriend Greg Norman. I'm pretty sure she was linked with John Lloyd once, too - before Chrissie! Then came Cliff Richard, the most highly publicised relationship of them all! Ironic really that when she finally settled down and married it was with a policeman whom I've still never ever seen a picture of!
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Old Dec 31st, 2003, 06:00 PM   #10
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Oh, my goodness; I remember reading this article in 1977!
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Old Jan 1st, 2004, 04:41 AM   #11
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Married a policeman did she? Sue probably still needs a bobby with a big stick to beat off all the male admirers!

And thanks for the info Nicola -didn't know about Greg Norman! I wonder if a book on him mentions her....
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Old Jan 1st, 2004, 10:07 AM   #12
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A newspaper photo from December 1978.

(For some reason the pic won't add! But it seems to be from the Melbourne Age - 5 Dec 1978.)

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Old Jan 2nd, 2004, 07:52 AM   #13
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Sue and Greg Pic (Dec 1978)
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File Type: jpg Sue and Greg.jpg (94.1 KB, 50 views)
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Old Jan 2nd, 2004, 10:28 AM   #14
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Sue Barker must be one of the few women to be able to boast all the following scalps:
defeated
Maria Bueno at Wimbledon (L16) 1976: 26 62 61
Evonne Goolagong at Paris Indoor (qf) 1975: 62 75
Evonne Goolagong at Brisbane (1r) 1982: 61 63
Chris Evert at Boston (qf) 1979: 63 61
BJ King at Houston (1r) 1982: 62 61
Martina Navratilova at Tokyo Gunze (sf) 1976: 26 63 62
Martina Navratilova at Hollywood FLA (qf) 1977: 76 64
Martina Navratilova at VS Champs (RR) 1977: 75 64

She had a 0-1 record against Graf and lost at least once to Court for no wins, as far as I know.

BTW I saw people were looking for her hubby's name - L P Tankard
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Old Jan 2nd, 2004, 11:54 AM   #15
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She lost to Graf the last time she played Wimbledon in 1984...I have the story from the Times but not with me here (Graf beat Barker 75 63 in the second round).

I will try to scan and post
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