Sue Barker interview: I owe my coach everything since he resigned in protest when LTA tried to modify my game

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The average British tennis fan believes that Wimbledon is usually sunny and warm,

The positive outlook of Sue Barker, one of life’s built-in mood boosters, is mainly responsible for this widespread illusion.

Whatever path the BBC takes over the summer, Barker’s contagious giggle cannot be replaced.

Until her retirement in July, she delivered the tournament’s music for nearly thirty years.

This woman has the ability to make any encounter seem wonderful.

Barker even frames her own heartbreaking losses on Centre Court as a long-term benefit in her most recent biography, Calling the Shots.

“If I’d won the semi-final [against Betty Stove in 1977] and maybe won Wimbledon … I might never have ventured into television. And of course, that’s opened up the most amazing 30 years.”

More than just halfway full, Barker’s glass is full. It is overflowing. It is overflowing.

However, once she started searching through her family’s archive for old documents last year,

She was taken aback to come across a cache of long-forgotten pain.

“When I read the letters I wrote back from America, I thought ‘Oh my word,”

Baker stated.

Who, in 1974, left the true sunshine of Newport Beach, California, for the small-town life in Paignton when still a golden-haired naive.

“In my head, I had this image that I’d just loved every minute. But I found that I’d been writing about how lonely I was, how depressed I was, and how my game had gone off.

Even my friends from that time said that, when I came home, I didn’t want to go back.

“I do remember one of my first days in California, driving around trying to get my bearings. There was a drive-in bank and a drive-in dry-cleaner, a drive-in this and a drive-in that.

America was just so weird, you know? At 17, I was thinking ‘What am I doing here?”

If Barker had more effortlessly merged into the system, she wouldn’t have left the UK.

However, she played an uncommon brand of tennis, with a closed-grip forehand that was at least a decade ahead of her time.

She needed to reconstruct that forehand, according to a 1969 national training camp report.

The day was rated as the best on the professional circuit – because she whacked it with “a bent elbow near to her body”.

“God bless you, Arthur”: Sue Barker

We are certain that Barker would not have won the French Open in 1976 if she had followed this advice.

Nor has climbed to No. 3 in the global rankings, trailing only Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.

Thankfully, Arthur Roberts, her cold and distant coach, was a maverick in his own right.

Barker was discovered as a talent by Roberts during a PE class knockabout when she was 11 years old.

Consequently, he resigned from the LTA in protest when that patronizing email regarding her forehand appeared.

The incident, according to Calling The Shots, led to the development of an “Us and Them mentality.”

Throughout Barker’s 19-year tennis career, Roberts remained her instructor. She closes her book with the phrase “God bless you, Arthur.”

“There were actually two WTA tours at that stage,”

Barker recalled.

“If you reached a semi-final on the Futures level, you earned a fortnight with the big girls on the Champions tour. And trust me: when I went up, I was out on Monday or Tuesday.

I would be facing Evonne [Goolagong], Billie Jean, Margaret [Court], and Virginia.

Then you’re not playing again for a week, because it was usually an indoor venue with no real practice courts around, other than finding country clubs somewhere.

“Those weeks were lonely, but it was still extremely exciting to be part of the tour because women’s tennis was the one sport that really took off at that time.

Previously, there had been a few ice-skaters and Nancy Lopez in golf, and maybe a couple of runners.

But other than that, women athletes were really not well known. Then, suddenly, Chrissie and Martina came along. Chrissie in particular was everywhere.”

It’s odd to imagine that there isn’t a single WTA Tour player right now who could demand that level of attention.

With a sum of $25,000 on the line, the cash prize surged when the first Virginia Slims event was held.

However, since Serena Williams announced her departure last month, women’s tennis has been lacking a leader.

“Although it’s exciting that you have different grand-slam champions, you also need to have household names,”

Barker stated.

“And we don’t know who these people are. When Simona Halep won Wimbledon I thought she might have been the one to dominate, but it hasn’t happened.

Ash Barty had the personality and the game but stepped away.

“Watching that US Open final last year, with Emma [Raducanu] and Leylah [Fernandez],

I was thinking that this would be a fabulous rivalry – which is exactly what we need. But I’m probably being biased because Emma’s British.”

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