LONDON (AP) — There they were, spread across the practice courts on the afternoon before Wimbledon begins: past Grand Slam champions or former No. 1s — Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki — and some who aspire to such heights — Eugenie Bouchard, Milos Raonic, Ernests Gulbis.
Djokovic, the 2011 winner at the All England Club and last year's runner-up to Andy Murray, teasingly challenged Wozniacki to hit a serve into a white plastic bag he was holding (she missed, then joked about "too much pressure.") Kvitova tested her heavily wrapped upper right leg. Bouchard, a semifinalist at the last two majors, worked on volleying.
Notably absent was 2013 champion Marion Bartoli, the first woman in 17 years who declined to try to defend her Wimbledon title. Still, Bartoli held the traditional reigning champion's pre-tournament news conference Sunday, when she explained she has zero lingering doubts about retiring at age 28, less than two months after winning her only Grand Slam trophy — and also showed precisely why she quit the sport.
Tugging down the collar of her white top to reveal strips of blue tape providing support for her right shoulder, Bartoli said: "Literally, I can't even lift my arm every morning. It was the same last year and didn't improve. ... So definitely no regrets at all."
She has moved on to other pursuits — TV commentary, launching a shoe line and designing jewelry.
Ah, but Bartoli will always have her Wimbledon championship, and she takes great pride in that.
"Sometimes, people ask me, 'Who are you?' I just say, 'I'm the Wimbledon champion.' It just speaks by itself," she said. "I don't even need to mention my name."
When the All England Club's suit-and-tie-clad moderator began Sunday's proceedings by intoning, "I have great pleasure in introducing Marion Bartoli, our current ladies' singles champion," the Frenchwoman pumped her fists and smiled broadly.
During the question-and-answer session, Bartoli noted no fewer than three times that she won last year's tournament without dropping a set. She revealed that every couple of days, she'll log on to YouTube and watch a video of the 101 mph (163 kph) ace she hit — a spray of chalk dust proving it was in — to close her victory over Sabine Lisicki in the final.
Her coach for that magical fortnight was Amelie Mauresmo, a former No. 1 and two-time major champion who recently was hired by Murray as he attempts to win a second consecutive title at Wimbledon.
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