Doing it her way, France's Bartoli wins Wimbledon

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 6, 2013 at 2:55 pm •  Published: July 6, 2013
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"I was doing everything well," Bartoli said. "I was moving well. I was returning well. I mean, I really played a wonderful match."

It was not exactly the greatest theater or a "How To" guide for young players. Bartoli and Lisicki combined for more unforced errors, 39, than winners, 36. They finished with 11 doubles-faults and eight aces. When Lisicki double-faulted twice in one game while getting broken to trail 4-1 in the second set, she covered her face with her racket as her eyes welled.

"I was a bit sad that I couldn't perform the way I can," Lisicki said.

Lisicki already was on the precipice of defeat when she finally did look like someone who entered the day with a 19-4 career record at Wimbledon — the afternoon's lone, brief moment of intrigue and competitive tennis. Facing match points while serving at 15-40 with a scoreline of 6-1, 5-1 in Bartoli's favor after only 67 minutes, Lisicki suddenly remembered how to play again.

She hit a swinging backhand volley winner to erase one match point, then a 106 mph service winner to take care of the next. Another followed shortly, and this time Bartoli put a backhand into the net. At deuce, Lisicki smacked a 115 mph service winner and a 114 mph ace to hold serve for the second time in seven tries.

Bartoli, who said she napped for a bit and danced to music in the locker room beforehand to stay loose, now was the one who was tight. With the crowd roaring after nearly every point, wanting more match for their money, Lisicki broke to 5-3, then held to 5-4.

Lisicki put together third-set comebacks against Williams and Radwanska, but could she really dig herself out of this hefty deficit?

No. Bartoli served out the match at love, using that one-of-a-kind serve to close with a 101 mph ace that hit a line and sent chalk dust spraying.

"You can't describe that kind of feeling. You cannot put (into) any words what I feel in this moment," said Bartoli, who won earned 1.6 million pounds (about $2.4 million). "I can't believe I won Wimbledon this year. We'll have to see the pictures, to see the match again on DVD, to ... realize it."

So might everyone else.

Soon after that final ace, she was climbing atop an overhang to get to the guest box for hugs with her father, Walter, and other members of her entourage, including French Fed Cup captain Amelie Mauresmo (the last player from France to win a Grand Slam title, at Wimbledon in 2006) and hitting partner Thomas Drouet (who began working with Bartoli in May after splitting with a player, Australia's Bernard Tomic, whose father faces court charges in Spain for allegedly assaulting Drouet).

"She fooled a lot of people during this fortnight," Mauresmo said.

Bartoli didn't let anything faze her, including a blister on her right big toe she said was the size of a quarter and left her sock bloody. When Lisicki took an extended bathroom break after the first set, Bartoli ran out to the baseline under the Royal Box and, facing a wall, jumped in place, did deep-knee bends, took practice cuts.

All of her idiosyncrasies were on display Saturday. The raised fist to celebrate pretty much every point she won. The sprints to the sideline at changeovers. And, most importantly of all, those flat forehands and backhands, putting her racket on balls while they're still low to the ground.

At 7½, she watched Seles beat Steffi Graf in the 1992 French Open final, and Bartoli decided — with Dad's encouragement — to adopt the double-handed technique. Her father devised all sorts of original training methods, including taping tennis balls to the heels of her shoes so she'd be forced to stay on her toes. He also used balls of varying colors and sizes to work on hand-eye coordination.

"All the pros were saying that I was completely crazy when they used to see me working with Marion," said Walter Bartoli, who got to town Friday. "But I kept believing in myself — and Marion."

Good thing, too.

No matter what else happens, she will always be the winner of the 2013 title at the All England Club.

"Just hearing 'Wimbledon champion,' that kind of sounds good to me," Bartoli said, rocking forward in her chair and chuckling. "I wanted that so badly. ... It was like: Dare to dream. I kept dreaming. I kept my head up. I kept working hard. And it just happened."

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich