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Telly: Why Sue is such a good sport.

WHO presented sport on TV before Sue Barker came along?

Olympics, Winter Olympics, A Question of Sport, Grandstand and, of course, Wimbledon, have all been fronted by Ms Barker in the past.

Now she's back on our screens with Commonwealth Games Grandstand.

It's all a far cry from her early days in the spotlight.

Brought up in Paignton, Devon, where her father was a brewery manager and her mother a cookery teacher, she began tennis lessons at 10 with inspirational coach Alfred Roberts.

``He was very strict, but I loved him to death. At 14 I left home to go on the European tennis tour. By 17, I was a tax exile living in the US - I was only allowed to spend 63 days a year in Britain, and I'd see my parents just one week a year.''

Roberts also banned her from having boyfriends. ``I didn't have my first proper relationship until I was 21,'' she says now.

However, when she did begin dating, her love life was splashed across newspapers everywhere. Barker was at various times linked to golfer Greg Norman, decathlete Daley Thompson, British tennis player Stephen Shaw and, perhaps most famously, Cliff Richard.

``I've only ever had half a dozen boyfriends in my life, but they've all been so well documented,'' she says.

Having said that, when Barker eventually did hang up her tennis racket after a loss of form and a devastating Achilles' tendon injury, she settled down with Lance Tankard, a former policeman whom she met at a David Lloyd coaching holiday in 1988.

Her first TV presenting job was for Channel 7 in Australia, followed by a stint on Sky. She then joined the BBC in 1993.

``I get letters from girls saying how tough it is to succeed in broadcasting as though I'm some gungho feminist,'' explains Sue. ``I got into broadcasting because I was number three in the world at tennis and I know I was given Grandstand because I'm female, not in spite of it. People assume you have to be young and glamorous, but viewers don't turn on to see a pretty girl just out of school talking about superbikes. They want to feel comfortable with what they're being told and it doesn't matter if you're young, old, male or female.''

Commonwealth Games Grandstand (BBC2, 6pm)
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 31, 2002
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