Annabel Croft: Former tennis star competing on Strictly 2023 ‘to find joy’ after husband’s death

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Strictly Come dance is back for its 21st series.

Like every year, the hit reality series sees celebrities, including comedians, actors, broadcasters and sports stars, compete for a chance to win the coveted Glitterball Trophy.

Former tennis champion Annabel Croft But he seeks much more than the glory of ballroom dancing.

After losing her husband of 30 years, investment banker and professional yachtsman Mel Coleman, to cancer earlier this year, Croft, 57, said she also hoped to “find a little joy” .

She told the Evening standard: “I think it’s an amazing time to try to find some joy and just throw yourself into something to take your mind off things,” she said.

Croft was born on 12 July 1966 in Farnborough, Kent, and has two siblings, an older brother, Simon, and a younger sister, Louisa. “According to my mother, I was a very active child and I wore out all my playmate friends because I had too much energy,” she said. PureLuxe.

She has previously spoken about how her mother Susan played club tennis, calling the sport an “obsession”. “Without her, I wouldn’t have played tennis. I will always be grateful to her,” she said, revealing that she started playing tennis at the age of nine during a family vacation in Marbella.

Three years later, Croft won the National Tennis Championships as an underdog, as “letters from the Lawn Tennis Association started arriving in the mailbox” inviting him to train at the tennis center from Bisham Academy. She has represented Great Britain in tournaments across Europe as well as the prestigious Wightman Cup between England and the United States.

At the age of 15, Croft became the youngest player to compete at Wimbledon in 95 years. Despite having a promising career and being ranked among the top 25 players in the world, Croft retired from professional tennis at the age of 21. She said her decision was linked to a series of defeats at major tournaments and the loneliness she experienced on tour.

“I was really alone and I started to think I had chosen the wrong path,” she said.The Scotsman. “I knew I wanted to get married and have children. I had a vision of the future: always engaged in combat, because that’s exactly what it was, until I was 30 and beyond. I just exploded.

Shortly after her retirement, Croft was chosen to replace Anneka Rice on Channel 4. Treasure hunt – rekindling a career in television which, over time, would also heal his relationship with tennis.

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While juggling presenting roles and appearances on reality series, Croft also began working as a tennis reporter, commentator and presenter for major broadcasters including Sky Sports. Today, she continues to lead coverage of Wimbledon for the BBC and Radio 5 Live, while also covering the Australian and French Open for Eurosport as a tennis expert.

During her decades-long television career, Croft also appeared in the award-winning BBC One documentary. Famous, rich and homelessin which she lived penniless on the streets of London for nine days “to improve understanding of those who sleep rough”.

“I’m afraid my own impression, when I saw them sitting on the sidewalks, was to give them a wide berth,” she said. “It would have been, ‘Look at you begging for money when you’re young and you have two arms and two legs.’ Why don’t you get up and work like the rest of us? It never occurred to me that these people might not have had parents, that they might have been mistreated in foster families…”

Croft and Coleman met while filming a show about yacht racing

(Getty Images)

Around the same time she was considering retiring from tennis, Croft met Coleman, a former America’s Cup and Admiral’s Cup navigator, while she was filming a BBC show about tennis racing. yachts, starring Eamonn Holmes and 70s music sensation the late Peter Skellern.

“Mel, who had just returned from Australia after the America’s Cup, was one of the boaters and that’s how we met,” she added. Six years later, they married.

Over the next three decades, Croft and Coleman welcomed three children together, two daughters Amber and Lily Rose and a son, Charlie, all of whom grew up. They set up a tennis academy in Croft’s name and spent the Covid-19 lockdowns converting an old DPD van into a mobile home.

In May 2023, she announced that Coleman had died after a short battle with stomach cancer, at the age of 60.

“My husband loved [Strictly], he really loved it,” she revealed before the series began. “He was crying watching it. He would call me if I was cooking and he would cry watching it. So, I hope he’s watching up there,” Croft added.

Strictly Come Dance airs every Saturday from September 16 on BBC One.

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