‘Bring back Sue Barker!’ Tennis fans slam ‘truly dreadful’ new format of Today at Wimbledon as BBC scraps live studio reaction
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During Wimbledon fortnight, the BBC’s popular highlights show is a staple for tennis fans who can’t watch the live action during the day.
However, this year’s revamped version from SW19 – which scraps the familiar studio overlooking Centre Court in favour of al fresco reporting – has already been dubbed ‘dreadful to watch’.
The nightly evening show’s long-term presenter Clare Balding is now fronting the main action, after veteran host Sue Barker retired last year.
Monday night’s first episode of Today at Wimbledon saw new presenter Qasa Alom taking the helm alone, with the programme featuring mostly pre-recorded analysis with experts captured earlier in the day – and many much-loved faces absent from the coverage.
One armchair critic declared the show was: ‘Truly dreadful to watch. More bizarre ideas from the BBC. Sort it and bring the traditional format back.’
Another said the missed Wimbledon’s familiar faces, writing: Bring back Sue Barker and John McEnroe for highlights show in the evening. Dull as dishwater without McEnroe.’
Alom, a long-time tennis fan, was named the new presenter of Today at Wimbledon after Clare Balding moved on to the BBC’s main coverage of the tennis tournament – but fans have complained about the new format of the highlights show
Another agreed, writing: ‘What a let down. At least the theme song remains…’
One tennis fan wrote: ‘Not enjoying the format change of #TodayAtWimbledon at all. I know things change, but it feels completely impersonal and clinical now. No ‘behind the scenes’ atmosphere, no chatty analysis, no human connection.’
And another added: ‘Completely agree, no sat around a table discussing the days play live in the evening. I’m all for trying something new, and accept that presenters change, but this was not good. Much preferred the old format. Clinical is a good description.’
Today at Wimbledon host Alom speaking to new pundit Feliciano López in a pre-recorded segment for the programme
Alom has previously presented a Radio 4 programmes on one of the sport’s most iconic stars, Arthur Ashe, and also takes an interest in cricket, rugby and athletics.
But fans admitted they were missing Sue Barker – and others not seen at Wimbledon this year, including Boris Becker, who was released from prison in December after serving eight months of his two-and-a-half-year sentence for bankruptcy fraud.
One wrote: ‘It’s a joke that’s gone too far – bring back Boris Becker, Sue Barker and keep Annabel Croft.’
Meanwhile, Barker appears to have found a new way to spend her summers. The presenter, who presented the BBC’s coverage of the tournament for 30 years, was spotted driving a top of the range Porsche 911 Turbo S in the Cotswolds last weekend.
Fans say they’re missing the ‘cosy’ studio chats of previous years, with BBC taking the programme outdoors for the revamped version of Today at Wimbledon
John McEnroe speaks with Sue Barker during the Wimbledon No. 1 Court Celebration on May 19, 2019 – many viewers say they’re missing Barker, 67, who retired at the end of last year’s tournament. One fan wrote: ‘Bring back Sue Barker and John McEnroe for highlights show in the evening . Dull as dishwater without McEnroe.’
Ms Barker, 67, was pictured climbing into the vehicle, which costs upwards of £180,000 and has a top speed of 205mph, before donning a pair of sunglasses and driving off.
Ms Barker was paid a six-figure salary of up to £189,999, according to last year’s BBC high earners list.
She stepped down from presenting Wimbledon coverage last summer after 30 years, receiving an emotional farewell from tennis stars Tim Henman, Andy Murray and Roger Federer.
Barker has revealed she ‘didn’t want to get slowly phased out’ of presenting Wimbledon.
Speaking to BBC’s Women’s Hour earlier this year, the presenter said she ‘wanted to be at the top job forever’, adding: ‘I wanted to do Wimbledon on my own terms. BBC Sport offered me a new contract, but I knew with age and time and with everything that’s happening around that over the next few years I would get phased out slightly.’
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