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Sue Barker interview: Emma Raducanu missed out on fun – she needs to learn how to enjoy winning

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Sue Barker Interview: Emma Raducano Missed the Fun - She Needs to Learn to Enjoy Winning - GETTY IMAGES
Sue Barker Interview: Emma Raducano Missed the Fun – She Needs to Learn to Enjoy Winning – GETTY IMAGES

In the mind of the average British tennis fan, the sun always shines at Wimbledon. This is a nationwide misconception that owes a lot to the upbeat personality of Sue Barker, one of life’s natural mood enhancers.

Whichever direction the BBC takes next summer, nothing can replace Barker’s infectious chucklewhich provided the tournament soundtrack for nearly three decades until her retirement in July.

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Here is a woman who can present any experience in a positive light. In his new autobiography Challenges, Barker even positions his agonizing losses on Center Court as a long-term boon. “If I won the semi-final [against Betty Stove in 1977] and maybe won Wimbledon… Maybe I would never have ventured into television. And, of course, it ushered in the most amazing 30 years.”

Sue Barker at Wimbledon in 1977.  Sue Barker Interview: Emma Radukanu Missed the Fun - She Needs to Learn to Enjoy Winning - Pennsylvania
Sue Barker at Wimbledon in 1977. Sue Barker Interview: Emma Radukanu Missed the Fun – She Needs to Learn to Enjoy Winning – Pennsylvania
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Barker’s glass is more than half full. It overflows. And yet, when she began digging through her family archives for historical records last year, she was surprised to find a treasure trove of long-forgotten heartache.

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“When I read the letters I wrote back from America, I thought, ‘Oh my God,'” said Barker, who was still a golden-haired ingénue as she traded her life in a small town in Paignton for the real sunshine of Newport Beach. California, 1974

“I had this image in my head that I loved every minute. But I found myself writing about how lonely I was, how depressed I was, and how my game went down the drain. Even my friends of that time said that when I came home, I did not want to return.

“I remember one of my first days in California when I was driving around trying to get my bearings. There was an entrance bank and an entrance dry-cleaner, an entrance one and an entrance behold. America was so strange, you know? At 17, I thought, “What am I doing here?”

Barker might never have left the UK had she fitted in the system better. But she had an unusual game based on a closed-grip forehand that was at least ten years ahead of its time. A 1969 national training camp report said she needed to redo that right hand, which would one day be considered the best on the pro tour, because she hit it with “a bent elbow close to her body”.

If Barker had taken this advice, we can be sure that she would never have won the French Open in 1976. And would not have risen to 3rd place in the world rankings after the immortal duet of Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert.

Sue Barker at the French Open in 1976  Sue Barker Interview: Emma Raducano Missed the Fun - She Needs to Learn to Enjoy Winning - GETTY IMAGES
Sue Barker at the French Open in 1976 Sue Barker Interview: Emma Raducano Missed the Fun – She Needs to Learn to Enjoy Winning – GETTY IMAGES

Fortunately, her stern and aloof coach, Arthur Roberts, was a maverick in his own right. After noticing Barker’s talent at the age of 11 during a knockout in gym class, Roberts thought she had a talent that could be put on par with Virginia Wade. So when this condescending message about her bias came in, he resigned from the LTA in protest.

According to Calling The Shots, the incident created an “us and them” mentality. Roberts will remain Barker’s coach for the entire 19 years of her tennis career. Her book, which ends with “God bless you, Arthur,” often feels like a platonic love letter from student to teacher.

One of Roberts’ many oddities was that he was not traveling from his base at the Palace Hotel in Torquay, so Barker found herself alone in the States. just a year after Billie Jean King’s WTA revolution.

“Actually, there were two WTA tours at the time,” Barker recalls. “If you reach the semi-finals at the Futures level, you have earned two weeks with the big girls on the Champions Tour. And believe me: when I got up, I was not on Monday or Tuesday. I would date Evonne [Goolagong]Billy Jean, Margaret [Court], Virginia. Then you don’t play again for a week because it was usually an indoor area with no real practice courts except for country clubs.

“Those weeks were lonely, but being on the tour was still extremely exciting because women’s tennis was the only sport that really took off at the time. There used to be a few skaters and Nancy Lopez in golf, maybe a couple of runners. But other than that, female athletes were little known. Then Chrissy and Martina suddenly appeared. In particular, Chrissy was everywhere.”

Sue Barker & Serena Williams - Sue Barker Interview: Emma Raducano Missed the Fun - She Needs to Learn to Enjoy Winning - GETTY IMAGES
Sue Barker & Serena Williams – Sue Barker Interview: Emma Raducano Missed the Fun – She Needs to Learn to Enjoy Winning – GETTY IMAGES

It is strange to think that today there is not a single player on the WTA Tour who could deserve such recognition. Prize money has grown out of the spotlight since the first $25,000 pot Virginia Slims tournament was set up. And yet, after Serena Williams retired last month, women’s tennis seeks figurehead.

“While it’s great that you have different Grand Slam champions, you also need to have big names,” Barker said. “And we don’t know who these people are. When Simona Halep won Wimbledon, I thought she could have dominated, but she didn’t. Ash Barty had a personality and a game, but he left.

“Watching last year’s US Open final with Emma. [Raducanu] and Leila [Fernandez], I thought it would be a fabulous rivalry – exactly what we need. But I’m probably biased because Emma is British.”

“Radukan needs a person whom she trusts and believes in”

For Barker, who never strayed far from Roberts’ common sense, it’s hard to imagine him burning coaches two or three times a season – the paradigm of Radukan’s short career to date.

“I feel like she needs someone she really trusts and believes in,” Barker said. “Every coach comes with a different mindset, a different desire to play and a different way of teaching. And for me it would be completely confusing. This would be devastating before it took effect. But I also feel like the pressure she’s under is just overwhelming.

“For me, the happiest years of my career were when I studied the game. Despite the fact that I wrote my little sad letters from America, I remember my big victories: defeated Margaret Court and Evonne, and then played with Chrissy in the final at Madison Square Garden. Taking part in competitions with people that I watched at Wimbledon, I felt that I had achieved success, you know? But I also gradually built up. Whereas Emma won the major in the fifth tournament in which she participated. So she missed the fun part. Now that her rating has dropped, she might just win a few matches.

“She has a game and she has shown that she has a mindset and she is great physically. I mean, I don’t know about injuries and what happens to them, but she went through the US Open after qualifying. I just feel like she has all the attributes. Now she needs to learn how to win and maybe enjoy it.”

Enjoyment was definitely the key for Barker. There is a passage in “Shots” in which, sometime in the mid-1980s, she spots Steffi Graf dining with her entourage at a nearby table of eight in the village of Wimbledon. “I thought: how sad, there is not a single person of her age with her.”

Barker laughed when I mentioned this story. “I am sure that Steffi was completely satisfied with her fate,” she said. “But I would not change the era in which I came. We all cared for each other, and our friendships were deep and enduring.

“Whatever I complained to my parents at the time, I look back now and think I was so lucky.”

Sue Barker’s theater tour runs through October 21st.



Source: sports.yahoo.com

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