Strictlys Annabel Crofts life – tragic death, miserable career and regrets

Former tennis player Annabel Croft impressed fans and judges alike after she took to the dance floor on BBC's hit show Strictly Come Dancing.

The 57-year-old, who is currently partnered with professional dancer Johannes Radebe in the star-studded competition, has given stellar performances while keeping her fans on their toes. Previously known as the world's top 25 tennis players, Annabel has shown agility and tenacity on th dance floor.

But away from the spotlight, the TV presenter experienced family tragedy. Earlier this year, Annabel's husband Mel tragically passed away after losing his batle with cancer.

READ MORE: Strictly's Adam Thomas admits he 'nearly cried on live TV' after 'tough' moment

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Daily Star has taken a closer look at her life, her career and how Strictly has helped her get through her "darker" days.

'Miserable' career

Annabel currently works a radio and television presenter, but before her flourishing presenting career she was once a professional tennis player. As a tennis player she won the WTA Tour event Virginia Slims of San Diego and she also represented Great Britain in the Fed Cup and the Wightman Cup.

However, although Annabel was set to take the world by storm with her astonishing talent, the sports star decided to pack it all in by the age of 21 due to the fact that it was no longer making her happy. Previously sharing her thoughts with Daily Star, Annabel admitted, "My heart just wasn't in it".

She said: "Going on to a tennis court is like going into combat. There’s all this anger and animosity. It’s like a gladiatorial battle.

"As a child, I’d expected to become a ballerina. Tennis couldn’t have felt more different from Swan Lake!”

The star also confessed that she had no regrets with her decision to put the tennis racket down. She continued: "No, I’ve no regrets about stopping.

"I’d been on the tour for seven years, surrounded by agents, managers, coaches, sponsors. By 21, I’d lived the life of somebody nearer 35. And I’d come to realise that this life I’d chosen – the perpetual travelling, the lack of friends – wasn’t what I’d expected.

"You give up everything in terms of schooling and social life: no parties, no boys. You don’t grow up the normal way." The star also revealed that she regretted not continuing her ballet career.

Married life

Annabel met her late husband Mel Coleman, who worked as a yachtsman, when she was 21 when the pair were asked to take part in a TV show about sailing.

She previously said in an interview: "It was the first time I’d hung out with people my age. 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.

Annabel and Mel tied the knot in 1993. The couple lived in Coombe, near Wimbledon, in the London borough of Kingston, with their three children, Amber Rose and Lily and their son, Charlie.

In 2009, the pair started the Annabel Croft Tennis Academy at the National Tennis Centre. Report also claim that Mel worke as an investment banker at the time.

Family tragedy

Earlier this year, Annabel lost her husband Mel to cancer.

Tragically, the father-of-three had only been diagnosed eight weeks prior with the condition before he passed away. Mel previously complained of stomach pains just two months before his diagnosis.

The star previously shared her reaction when she first heard the news. She said: "I just went into total freefall. I was one of those wailing women in the hospital car park. Poor Mel was the one who’d been told he was going to die, and he was comforting me."

Sharing the heartbreaking news on social media, Annabel said: "My beloved Mel passed away peacefully on Wednesday morning after a short battle with cancer. My family and I are completely heartbroken and ask for privacy at this very sad time."

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A friend of the family allegedly told Daily Mail at the time: "This has come as an extreme shock to everyone – the diagnosis was out of the blue and Mel did not seem unwell at the time. Sadly the cancer progressed brutally…. Everyone is devastated and horrified, and Annabel is absolutely shattered."

Putting on a brave face, Annabel decided to return back to work after a few weeks and fans made sure they shared their condolences. One social media user said at the time: "Tragic. So sad, always watched her at Wimbledon, amazing lady, so sad, heartbreaking, thoughts with Annabel and all family and loved ones," one posted.

Strictly distraction

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Annabel previously admitted that Strictly has been a healthy distraction from her recent loss.

Appearing on ITV's Lorraine, Annabel told presenter Lorraine Kelly that Strictly has given her joy and has allowed her to stop thinking "dark thoughts". She said: "It's been nice to do something joyful and use my body and try to rest my brain from thinking too many dark thoughts."

The star also expressed that her husband enjoyed watching the BBC show weekly and she feels sad that he's unable to cheer her on. She previously said: "He always loved the show and he used to cry watching it, so I'm completely heartbroken that he's not here to watch with me."

In additon to this, Annabel also confessed that her partner Johannes was her husband's professional dancer. Singing his praises while on ITV's Lorraine, Annabel told Johannes that he was an absolute joy to work with.

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