As Marion Bartoli curled up to sleep on a sofa in the Wimbledon locker room, it was hard to believe the French star was just minutes away from one of the biggest matches of her life.
Throughout her career, Bartoli’s game has been marked by bizarre routines, most notoriously her series of jumps, skips, shuffles and twirls of her racquet as she prepares to serve and return. But taking a 30-minute nap just before her third Grand Slam semi-final was unique even by the 28-year-old’s standards.
Outside, Wimbledon’s Centre Court was buzzing in anticipation of her clash against Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens, but 15th seed Bartoli had decided now was the time for a snooze. When she awoke, Bartoli proceeded to rout Flipkens 6-1, 6-2 in just 62 minutes to clinch her second Wimbledon final appearance and there was even better to come from the revitalised Frenchwoman.
Bartoli returned to Centre Court on Saturday and demolished Sabine Lisicki 6-1, 6-4 with a superb display of power hitting to win the first Grand Slam title of her career. It was especially fitting that Bartoli's victory came at Wimbledon, where she lost her only previous Grand Slam final to Venus Williams in 2007.
“Holding this trophy has been my dream since I was six years old. I cannot believe it,” Bartoli said.
“Finishing with an ace, in my wildest dreams I’d never believe it. I have practised my serve for so long, at least I kept it for best moment!” Bartoli has never been one to do things the easy way. She grew up outside the tennis mainstream, coached by her father Walter, a doctor who had no background in the sport and yet gave up his job to teach his daughter how to become a professional.
Walter constructed home-made contraptions to help with her practice sessions, while her court positioning inside the baseline is a legacy of her days learning the game in the Haute-Loire region of France on a tiny court. But her Wimbledon triumph has vindicated her decision to cut ties with her father and employ Amelie Mauresmo as her new coach earlier this year.
With Bartoli’s results on the slide and her father conceding she might benefit from a different voice, she made the emotional decision to hire Mauresmo and the improvement in her game is now clear to see. It helps that Bartoli has always been able to keep her life on court in perspective.
“I’ve always been someone who loves to smile and have a laugh. Of course sometimes you have sad moments but I’ve had a great run here and right now I’m smiling even more,” she said. Even for someone of Bartoli’s up-beat disposition, her imperious march to the Wimbledon title without dropping a set was something of shock. She is the first Frenchwoman to win a Grand Slam since Mauresmo at Wimbledon in 2006.
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