Clare Balding replaces John Inverdale as Radio 5 Wimbledon host

Clare Balding is to return as the host of Radio 5 Live's Wimbledon coverage, replacing John Inverdale who sparked a row last year with an on-air gaffe.

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Clare Balding.
Clare Balding.

Inverdale caused a storm when listeners heard him say Marion Bartoli - who went on to be women's champion - was "not much of a looker".

Balding had previously been the station's Wimbledon host but the in-demand presenter was unable to front the coverage due to other commitments.

Inverdale will continue to work on the BBC's tournament coverage with highlights on TV.

A spokeswoman for the station said: "We have a wide team of talent that work across TV and radio at Wimbledon and John is very much a part of this again this year, and will present the daily highlights programme on BBC2, Today At Wimbledon.

"Clare Balding reprises her presenting role on Radio 5 Live, which she has done before. Due to other commitments Clare was not part of the Wimbledon team last year."

Inverdale told in an interview earlier this week how a bout of hay fever and efforts to fill airtime had been behind his comment last year.

The incident blew up to such an extent that the then culture secretary Maria Miller wrote to BBC director-general Tony Hall about the remark.

Inverdale, 56, told Radio Times magazine this week: "I was feeling so ill that day, I had terrible hay fever and all I could think of was that I wanted to go home to bed.

"I had Andy Murray in the final the next day, I knew I had to be on form.

"Your mind is going all over the place, we're on air from 12 noon till 7pm with not a single word written and you've got to fill the time."

The BBC received around 700 complaints after Inverdale questioned whether Bartoli's father had told her, when she was younger, that she was never going to be a "looker ... a Sharapova ... you're never going to be 5ft 11in, you're never going to be somebody with long legs, so you have to compensate for that".

The presenter later attempted to clarify the "ham-fisted" comment and said that he had written to Bartoli to apologise for using a "clumsy phrase".

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