Originally Posted by chris whiteside
It's funny how various things emerge years later in the course of conversation.
Becasue of the rain BBC were showing a documentary on Martina Navratilova last night and then Martina, whi is commenataing for the BBC this year, was sitting chatting to Sue Barker.
The talk came round to Sue's introduction to commentating. Apparently Sue was always interested in this and intended it as a future career and Gerry Willimas of the LTA was encouraging her to go down this route. When she was playing WTT for Indiana Loves she was actually commentating as well not just on tennis but on other sports American Football, Baseball etc. At one stage Billie Jean said to Sue that she had paid the price in her tennis career for this.
I wasn't aware of this before but it could help explain why Sue faded away so badly and left the game quite young if her focus was no longer on the playing side.
I hadn't known that Sue was involved with broadcasting during her playing days either. It's in many ways a surprise that she has risen to be the BBC's no.1 woman sports anchor. Her start was disastrous and I note that they have always used her as an anchor and link person, never as a commentator.
They tried her out at Wimbledon 1984, when she was asked to commentate alongside Harry Carpenter for a few minutes during the Wade/Carlsson 4th round match on Court 2. It was made clear it was an audition, and they broke in to the coverage which was already being commented on by two of the regular team, probably Maskell & Jones. During the audition, Barker never said a word. Carpenter kept trying to prompt her, but she just mumbled "mmm's" and "errr's". It was embarassing and they cut her off after only a few minutes. Considering that the BBC will seemingly use ANYONE who once held a racket as a tennis commentator, even if they have heavy foreign accents that make them almost incoherent to UK viewers, the fact that this was Sue's one and only trial was very telling about what they thought of her skills.
She next surfaced on UK Channel 4 during their coverage of the tennis at the 88 Olympics, but that ended in embarassment too. She and the male tennis host - I think it was Simon Reed (Oliver's brother) - were having to fill in while waiting for a Mecir match to take place in Seoul. Sue was reliving a Mecir match from an earlier Wimbledon in full colour detail, describing shots, explaining points, recreating the tension.... until a viewer had to call in and point out that the match she was describing had never actually taken place. The sight of her red face remains me with to this day. That was the end of Channel 4.
Notwithstanding, I think she somehow then landed a multi-sport hostess position with Sky TV and that's where she built her reputation, before finally being poached by the BBC to anchor Wimbledon - when the BBC had lost all of their traditional Wimbledon anchors either to retirement or ITV. She seemed something of a desperate choice, but has proved incredibly successful and popular. Out of the ashes...
I heard someone called Sam Smith commentating at Eastbourne last week. Dear God. How boring is she? I assume it's the same Sam Smith who rose to the dizzying heights of number 8,967,698,392,984 in the world, thus making her British number one for all of ten minutes? Still, anything's better in the booth than Jo Durie!