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Strictly’s Annabel Croft shares how late husband Mel ‘gave her strength’ to give up tennis

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Strictly Come Dancing star Annabel Croft has shared a heartwrenching insight into her first meeting with late husband Mel Coleman and how he inspired her to follow a different path.

The former tennis champion, whose husband died of colon cancer at the age of 60 back in May, has explained how it was Mel who “gave her the strength” to pursue a life beyond the world of competitive sport.

In an interview with MailOnline, Annabel recalled that she had been resolutely a single person when she met Mel, aged just 21.

While she was one of Britain’s most promising tennis players, having been the youngest person to play at Wimbledon when she was 15, the former British no 1 was very unhappy with her life as a sports star.

However, meeting the relaxed and charming Mel when she was asked to partake in a TV show about learning to sail changed all that completely.

“Our first handshake was captured on film,” she recalled. “He was earning £50 a week sailing round the world. He didn’t own a pair of proper shoes.

“I had this life that was outwardly glamorous, but I’d been in a bubble, playing from the age of nine, on the international circuit from 12.

“It was an adult world of managers, contracts, sponsors,” she explained. “I’d never gone to parties or gone dancing, like teenagers do. I wasn’t fully formed.”

It was on the boat that she and Mel fell in love, as he made her realise that she had the option to go in a totally different direction.

“It was the first time I’d hung out with people my age,” she revealed. “I put normal clothes on — not tennis gear. I went to the pub.

“For the first time, I didn’t have to think about my forehand or my backhand, or walking out in front of crowds.”

She then went on to explain that her late husband made her feel like she wasn’t alone, lending her his support when she shocked the world of tennis by retiring later that year.

“Once I met Mel, I realised I didn’t want to carry on doing that,” she reflected. “I think I took strength from who he was. He gave me confidence. He taught me how to . . . live.”

This year Annabel is taking part in BBC One show Strictly Come Dancing, which she believes has come at the perfect time.

Describing the show as “joyful”, she has revealed that her late husband was a big fan of her dance partner Johannes Radebe.

Strictly Come Dancing continues this Saturday at 6.30pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.

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Source: NewsFinale

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