Sue Barker’s ‘deep friendship’ with Cliff Richard’ laid bare – DESPITE marriage snub

Coco Gauff confuses Sue Barker with 'Chewbacca'

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Sue Barker, one of Britain’s best female tennis stars, and her journey from competitor to commentator will draw to a close this week, when she puts down her microphone for a final time. For decades, the 66-year-old has been a crucial face on the BBC’s coverage of the much-loved tennis tournament, which is currently taking place in London. She joined the broadcaster’s coverage in 1993, appearing as a regular guest on Today at Wimbledon, with then host Harry Carpenter, before becoming the lead anchor on it a year later.

Her analysis is often hailed by viewers, and her relationship with fans has only strengthened year on year, with Sue a firm favourite.

Across the years she’s made audiences laugh, and cry, and even sing, particularly when her former boyfriend Sir Cliff Richard would entertain fans at Wimbledon when rain stopped play.

The pair dated during the early part of Sue’s career, which saw the Londoner claim a French Open title in 1976.

Previously, Sir Cliff detailed how the pair began a relationship after watching her play, and inviting the tennis star to one of his shows in 1982.

After the gig, the pair went to a “very down-to-earth congregation” that discussed religion.

While their connection was strong, the pair soon “vanished to different parts of the globe”, though they stayed in contact throughout, with Sir Cliff noting how much he missed Sue.

In 2020’s Cliff Richard: The Dreamer, Sir Cliff wrote: “It is well-known that Sue and I went on to have a close relationship for a year or more and I have only fond memories of that time.

“She and I never had a cross word, and 40 years on, if I ever see her, our friendship is as deep and natural as it ever was.

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“And that is the way I know it will always be.”

Previously, Sir Cliff offered a further insight into their relationship in his 2008 book My Life, My Way, though he didn’t explain exactly why the romance failed.

He noted that on one occasion he nearly proposed to Sue, such was his love for the tennis pin-up.

Sir Cliff wrote: “Of all the women I’ve known, there were only two that I’ve come close to marrying.

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“One was Jackie Irving, a dancer whom I met in Blackpool. She was utterly beautiful and for a while we were inseparable.”

He detailed how the other was Barker.

Sir Cliff added: “I seriously contemplated asking her to marry me.

“But in the end I realised that I didn’t love her quite enough to commit the rest of my life to her.

“There were no broken hearts.”

More recently, it emerged Sue would step down from her role at Wimbledon.

The move came after she was axed from her position as host of the adored BBC quiz show A Question of Sport.

Speaking to the Daily Mail last month, Sue said: “Basically I just feel the time is right. It has been my dream job and I have loved every minute of it, working with so many great colleagues who I am going to miss so much.

“When I started I never thought I would manage 30 years. I had actually made up my mind to leave in 2017 because the hours were becoming very long and quite challenging.

“That would have been 25 years and seemed a good time, but I am so glad I made the decision to stay on.

“I’m very happy to be leaving with no regrets and on my own terms while I am still on top of the job, it just feels like the right time to go and leave it to others.”

Wimbledon is airing all week across the BBC.

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