Zoe Ball has said “bring it on” about the forthcoming rivalry between herself and Chris Evans after she took over his breakfast show slot on BBC Radio 2.
Ball’s debut saw her become the first woman to host in the weekday breakfast slot at the station having taking over from Evans, who will host a new breakfast show on Virgin Radio from next week.
Her inaugural show kicked off with Aretha Franklin’s Respect as her first song, and included interviews with John Cleese and Nadiya Hussain.
Following the broadcast, Ball told the Press Association that she had been nervous ahead of her new hosting job, but that it kicked off “so quickly”, and that “the listeners were so positive and really supportive, and they got involved in all the things that we did, really quickly”.
She said that she had received a message of support from predecessor Evans, and that it was “really lovely”.
She added: “He was just saying, ‘remember to breathe, remember to time check’. It meant a lot, actually.”
Ball and Evans were previously breakfast show rivals in the 1990s when she hosted on Radio 1 and he was on Virgin.
Asked what it will be like going head-to-head with him again, Ball said: “It’ll be like history repeating.
“I can’t remember what the outcome was but he’s always been so brilliant and supportive, so, yeah, bring it on.”
Ball, who left Radio 2’s Wogan House clutching a bunch of flowers, said she will spend the rest of the day “taking it all in”, as well as going to see her daughter Nelly, as it is her ninth birthday.
She was happy to share that she had managed to sleep for six-and-a-half hours the previous night, adding: “I think (that’s) quite good.”
Ball had opened her show at 6.30am, telling listeners: “Hello. My name is Zoe. How’s your belly off for spots? Good morning Radio 2 superstar listeners, here we go.”
Breathing a sigh of relief, she then said: “And, relax. After all the build-up, and the chat and the preamble, the big day is finally here. We are so super-excited. I’m ready, the prod squad team are ready.”
Introducing Franklin’s hit, she said her first song choice “had to be a dame, on this occasion”.
Ball unveiled a new Show and Tell segment for young listeners to call in, as well as reviving an old game called Hit, Miss Or Maybe from her former TV programme, Live And Kicking.
She also spoke to fellow DJ Sara Cox over the phone, hours ahead of the debut of Cox’s new Drivetime show on Radio 2.
Cox said she was feeling less nervous about her own broadcast because Ball had already been on the air.
Ball said: “Obviously we get pitted against each other all the time, sometimes people try to say there’s a rivalry between us, but it reminds me of French and Saunders as Bette and Joan, it always makes me laugh.”
Cox replied: “I’m guessing, it’s just two women who are dead good pals, and who are still pals, but they both each get a job they’re really happy with… it just isn’t an exciting headline.
“So instead they’ve gone with ‘rival Ball Cox shocker’, which is all nonsense, I love you babe.”
The three-hour programme ended with Ball signing off: “Thank you so much everybody for listening to our show today, thank you for all the wonderful messages of support.
“I hope you’ve enjoyed the show. Obviously always room for improvement, so we will do our best tomorrow.”
BBC director-general Tony Hall, who was at Radio 2, told the Press Association after the show that Ball was “brilliant, absolutely brilliant. We knew she was going to be brilliant”.
Ball replaced Evans in the breakfast slot after he hosted his show since 2010, when he took over from Sir Terry Wogan.