Susan Barker CBE

by Naomi Gledhill from MY HERO Staff

155180Sue Barker, British television presenter and tennis player, presenting for BBC Sport at the parade in London to celebrate the achievements of British competitors at the 2008 Summer Olympics.Steve Punter via Wikimedia Commons

Born on April 19, 1956, Susan Barker CBE is a British former professional player and broadcaster. Throughout her tennis career, she won fifteen Women’s Tennis Association Tour singles titles, one of which was a major singles title at the French Open in 1976. At the height of her career, she was ranked third in the world.

In 1993, almost a decade after competing in her last professional match, Barker began presenting tennis matches for the BBC.[1]

Barker was born in Devon in the United Kingdom. Whilst at junior school, she discovered a love for tennis and was encouraged by her PE teacher, Mrs. Chadwick. In an interview with the BBC, Barker recalled Mrs. Chadwick used to run drills with her as the Lawn Tennis Association would give out certificates to young children for completing the drills without a mistake. Barker attributes some of her desire to “keep improving,”[2] to Mrs. Chadwick’s encouragement. Barker later attended the Marist Convent School, in Paignton, Devon. The nuns also played an instrumental role in Barker’s success, as they gave her afternoons and weeks off so that she was able to practice and attend various matches. Often, some of them would attend the matches with her. “They weren't afraid to give it some,” Barker told the BBC, adding, “they were shouting and screaming and then they would say: ‘We're praying for you, Sue.’”[3]

It was at the Marist Convent School where Barker was scouted by legendary tennis coach, Arthur Roberts, famous for coaching tennis superstar Angela Mortimer to three Grand Slam titles.[4] Roberts coached Barker throughout her teenaged years, charging her only one British pound per session, to ensure she was able to keep developing. When she was seventeen years old, Roberts recommended that Barker move to the United States. She was ranked twenty first in the world by the Women’s Tennis Association at the time. Barker was signed by Mark McCormack’s International Management Group, who provided her accommodation in California once she moved.[5]

From here, Barker’s career was on an upwards trajectory. She won the Exmouth Open in Exmouth, Devon, in both 1973 and 1974. In 1975, Barker won four titles, including her first ever top-level singles title.[6] In 1976, she beat Czechoslovakian Renáta Tomanová, winning the German Open. Later that year, Barker beat Tomanová once again, winning the French Open at 20 years old. This was the most significant win of her career. In 1977, Barker reached the semi-finals of both the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

During 1978, Barker was unable to compete for much of the year due to ongoing issues with an injury. During this time her ranking dropped to twenty-fourth. The following year, however, Barker won three titles and reached the finals of another three competitions. She was named “Comeback Player of the Year” on the Avon Championship circuit.[7] In 1981, Barker won her last singles title at the Brighton International. She won her last doubles title the following year, before ending her tennis career in 1984.[8]

Less than a year after her last professional match in 1984, Barker began commentating matches on Australia’s Channel 7.[9] Between 1990 and 1993, Barker commentated for British Sky Broadcasting, before joining the BBC to host their broadcasting of Wimbledon. She also hosted the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year Awards Show between 1994 and 2012. In 1997, she took over from David Coleman as host of the British Sports quiz show A Question of Sport. She left the show in 2020, after the BBC decided they wanted to “revamp” the show.[10] In 2022, she announced that she would no longer be hosting the coverage of Wimbledon.

In 2000, Barker became a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for her services to sports and broadcasting. In 2016, for her services to broadcasting and charity, Barker was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). In 2021, for the same services, she was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).

Susan Barker CBE should serve as an inspiration to aspiring sportswomen around the globe. Fueled by her passion, she spent hours of her youth running drills and practicing in order to improve. She overcame adversity in the form of injury during the height of her career and has since continued to dedicate most of her life to the sport she loves.

[1] Sue Barker. [Online] Available

[2] Eight things we learned from Sue Barker's Desert Island Discs. [Online] Available

[3] Ibid.

[4] Sue Barker. [Online] Available

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7]Sue Barker (GBR). [Online] Available

[8] Sue Barker. [Online] Available

[9] Ibid.

[10] Barker, Dawson and Tufnell to leave A Question Of Sport in show shake-up. [Online] Available

Page created on 4/1/2024 12:21:56 PM

Last edited 4/1/2024 12:39:59 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.


, . Sue Barker. [Online] Available

, . Eight things we learned from Sue Barker's Desert Island Discs. [Online] Available

, . Sue Barker (GBR). [Online] Available

, . Barker, Dawson and Tufnell to leave A Question Of Sport in show shake-up. [Online] Available