Annabel Croft, who reached the 3rd round at Wimbledon in 1984 before retiring from the women’s tour at just 21-years-old, is dealing with the sudden heartbreak of losing her husband of 30 years, Mel Coleman, following his death on Wednesday, just 8 weeks after being diagnosed with Stage Three cancer.
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. Annabel Croft
Coleman was aged 60, and boasted sporting credentials of his own as a former America’s Cup yachtsman, while the couple, who have three grown-up children, named Charlie, Amber and Lily, also ran a tennis school together.
He was also a successful investment banker, enjoyed an active outdoors lifestyle, and apparently was noted for his good health.
Coleman had complained of having stomach pains before tests revealed that he had been suffering from Stage Three cancer, a diagnosis that only was confirmed a matter of weeks ago, but his condition deteriorated quicker than expected.
“My beloved Mel passed away peacefully on Wednesday morning after a short battle with cancer,” 56-year old Croft posted on social media on Friday. “My family and I are completely heartbroken and ask for privacy at this very sad time.”
Croft represented Great Britain in the Federation Cup in 1985 and 1986, and reached a career high of No 24 in the world rankings before giving up tennis in 1988 to focus on a career in broadcasting after becoming exhausted by the demands of worldwide travelling.
Even though Croft retired from tennis early, she stayed connected to the game, and subsequently established herself as one of the country’s top tennis experts, frequently appearing on the BBC, Eurosport and Sky Sports.
It was a chance encounter that saw her meet Coleman for the first time on a yacht racing assignment,.
The former America’s Cup yachtsman happened to be in the vicinity when Croft travelled to the Channel Islands to film a programme, and the couple later married in 1992.
After Covid lockdowns, they became famed for converting an old delivery van into a mobile home which they took all across across Europe, going on numerous walking holidays.
They named the vehicle, which they transformed as part of a lockdown project, ‘Vannabel’, and showcased their adventures online.
“Tragic. So sad, always watched her at Wimbledon, amazing lady, so sad, heartbreaking, thoughts with Annabel and all family and loved ones,” one fan posted on hearing the news.
Another wrote: “Dear Annabel, I’m so sad to hear about your beloved husband. Sending you, your families and friends, my condolences, much love and strength. May your husband’s sleep be peaceful.”
A friend added: “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 and he passed earlier this week. Everyone is devastated and horrified, and Annabel is absolutely shattered. The two of them have been together forever and were a wonderful couple.”
Top showbiz agent Jonathan Shalit said: “Rest in peace dearest Mel. I truly loved you. We shared some incredibly special and personal times.
“You were a truly great friend, husband and father. My life is dimmer without you. I am truly devastated. Mel Coleman you will be forever remembered and loved.”
Emma Kenny added: “Mel was an absolute force of nature, married to an equal one. He was a joy to be in the same room with, and instantly made you feel like an old friend.
“I shall treasure the family meal we shared and the smile that was so wide he lit up the room.”