Strictly Come Dancing contestant Annabel Croft has revealed how the BBC show is distracting her from her grief following the death of her husband earlier this year.

The former British number one tennis player and broadcaster said she is “still crying every day” after her husband of 36 years Mel Coleman died from cancer aged 60 – just 16 weeks after the initial diagnosis.

Croft, 57, said Stirctly was a sanity-saver and being partnered with her late husband’s favourite Strictly professional, Johannes Radebe, was providing some solace in what is an extremely difficult time for her.

Strictly Come Dancing brings joy back after  husband's death says Annabel Croft

Croft said whether she wins Strictly Come Dancing or not doesn't matter, to her it's about the "wonderful and joyful experience" and being able to alleviate the pain following her husband's death. 

The former tennis player, speaking to the Daily Mail, said: "I find the performing terrifying. I feel physically sick, but the effort involved means your brain doesn’t have room for anything else.

“It’s bringing joy, or at least a glimmer of it, back into my life… Johannes is like an angel who came into my life to alleviate the pain, a little.”

Croft added: “When I got the offer I thought, actually, what else am I going to be doing — coming home at 4pm to a dark, empty house, a house Mel built, in the winter?

“Also, I’m an athlete. The idea of using my body to try to alleviate something — the pain, I guess — was appealing.

“…Glitterball or no glitterball, I will have had a wonderful and joyful experience.

“I’m just getting through every day. If this last year has taught me anything it is this: don’t focus on the future — concentrate on today.”

He was "dying in front of us" - Annabel Croft recounts her husband's final months

Croft was the youngest Briton to compete in the Wimbledon Championships for almost a century at the age of 15 before becoming a junior champion at the tournament in 1984 at the age of 18.

She met her husband-to-be yachtsman Mel Coleman three years later at the age of 21 after being asked to take part in a TV show about learning how to sail. The pair then married in 1993.

Coleman was diagnosed with Colon Cancer at the beginning of the year. 

Croft, who has been unable to collect her late husband’s ashes from the crematorium, recalled the day the couple were told he had “cancer, and it is everywhere”.

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.

“Three months later, I was picking up a death certificate and our three children were having to process the fact their dad’s name was on there.”

Swindon Advertiser: Annabel Croft is a former world number one tennis player.Annabel Croft is a former world number one tennis player. (Image: John Walton/PA Wire)

In April Croft said her husband was feeling better so they decided to travel to Portugal on what she calls “the fateful holiday”.

She said: “We think that his colon was perforated on the flight. It can happen when it is in such a weakened state.

“We could see that something was wrong, because his feet became very swollen.

“From that moment, his body was being poisoned.”

Croft said he was “dying in front of us” and the family watched him take his last breath in the hospital which she described as “traumatic”.