Delight for Judy Murray as Strictly pairings announced

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Strictly Come Dancing contestants were last night teamed up with the professionals who will guide them through the series, as their pairings were announced.

Viewers last night saw Judy Murray coupled with show regular Anton Du Beke and declaring she was “absolutely delighted” with the choice during the launch edition of the BBC1 hit.

Aljaz Skorjanec, who won the contest last year with partner Abbey Clancy, has been paired with larger-than-life This Morning reporter Alison Hammond.

Fans will now wait until shows on September 26 and 27 to see each of the teams perform routines together when the series proper begins, giving them three weeks to rehearse.

Sir Bruce Forsyth made a guest appearance to hand over the baton for future presenting duties to Claudia Winkleman and his old co-host Tess Daly who will front the show this year.

TV wildlife host Steve Backshall has been paired with Ola Jordan and was pleased with the combination. He said: “I have a friend who’s a dancer and she said to me, ‘You want Ola because she’s a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good’ – meaning ‘even you’.”

Masterchef presenter Gregg Wallace will be strutting his stuff with Aliona Vilani and he declared: “I am very happy because I know what an amazing dancer she is.

“I am really chuffed, I’ve watched Aliona dance and she is amazing.”

The programme last night went head to head with rival The X Factor with the two shows in an annual TV ratings tussle. Strictly has been ahead for the past two years.

Last year’s winning pair – Clancy and Skorjanec – reunited during last night’s show to perform a waltz.

The news comes as Strictly was named the clear favourite to triumph in the ratings battle against The X Factor.

BBC1’s Strictly has been on a roll in the past two years while ITV’s singing contest has seen its audience slide with bookies predicting the dance show will stay one ahead.

Bookmaker William Hill puts the BBC contest as the 1/3 favourite to come out on top. Spokesman Rupert Adams said: “We really like the look of the Strictly line-up and think that even the return of Cheryl will fail to save Simon’s blushes.”

The X Factor has overhauled the judging panel this year with Simon Cowell and Cheryl Fernandez-Versini – formerly Cole – returning, in an effort to boost the show’s fortunes.