'That's me': France's Bartoli does it her way, giving unique Wimbledon unique women's champion

  • Article by: HOWARD FENDRICH , AP Tennis Writer
  • Updated: July 6, 2013 - 5:59 PM

view larger photos

  

LONDON — Ever since she was a kid, practicing until midnight with her father, Marion Bartoli went about playing tennis her own way.

The two-handed strokes for backhands, forehands, even volleys. The hopping in place and practice swings between points, which help her focus. The unusual setup for serves — no ball-bouncing, arms crossed, right wrist resting on her left thumb before the toss.

Whatever works, right? This unique Wimbledon, appropriately enough, produced a unique champion in the ambidextrous Bartoli, the 15th-seeded Frenchwoman who won her first Grand Slam title by beating 23rd-seeded Sabine Lisicki of Germany 6-1, 6-4 Saturday in an error-filled, one-sided final that was far from a classic.

"It's always been a part of my personality to be different. I think being just like the other one is kind of boring. I really embrace the fact of being a bit different and doing something that not everyone is," said the 28-year-old Bartoli, who plays tennis right-handed but signs autographs with her left. "I actually love that part of my game, being able to have something different."

She certainly stands alone.

This was Bartoli's 47th Grand Slam tournament, the most ever played by a woman before earning a championship.

She is the only woman in the 45-year Open era to win Wimbledon playing two-fisted shots off both wings (Monica Seles, Bartoli's inspiration for that unusual style, collected her nine major titles elsewhere).

Until Saturday, it had been more than 1½ years since Bartoli won a tournament at any level.

Until these last two weeks, Bartoli's record in 2013 was 14-12, and she had failed to make it past the quarterfinals anywhere.

Asked how to explain how she went from that sort of mediocre season to winning seven matches in a row at Wimbledon, never dropping a set, Bartoli briefly closed her eyes, then laughed heartily.

"Well," Bartoli said, spreading her arms wide, "that's me!"

Unlike Lisicki, a first-time major finalist who was admittedly overwhelmed by the occasion and teared up in the second set, Bartoli already had been on this stage, with the same stakes. Back in 2007, Bartoli won only five games during a two-set loss to Venus Williams in the Wimbledon final.

"I know how it feels, Sabine," Bartoli said during the on-court trophy ceremony. "And I'm sure, believe me, you'll be there one more time. I have no doubt about it."

Bartoli became the first woman in the Open era to win Wimbledon without facing anyone seeded in the top 10 — her highest-rated opponent was No. 17 Sloane Stephens of the United States in the quarterfinals. That's in part because of all of the injuries and surprises, including exits for No. 2 Victoria Azarenka, No. 3 Maria Sharapova, No. 5 Sara Errani, No. 7 Angelique Kerber, No. 9 Caroline Wozniacki and No. 10 Maria Kirilenko by the end of the second round.

Lisicki, meanwhile, used her game built for grass — fast serves, stinging returns, superb court coverage — to end defending champion and top-seeded Serena Williams' 34-match winning streak in the fourth round. Lisicki also eliminated past major champions Francesca Schiavone and Sam Stosur, along with No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska, last year's runner-up.

But Lisicki was an entirely different player Sunday, rattled by every little thing, even the walk downstairs from the locker room to Centre Court and the final-afternoon ritual of players carrying bouquets of flowers when they enter the arena.

"Everything is a little bit different. You've been here for two weeks; the feeling, atmosphere, gets different," said Lisicki, who is based in Bradenton, Fla., and marked her rare winners Saturday with yells of "Yes!" or "Come on!"

"I felt fine this morning, but it's an occasion that you don't get every day," she said. "So it's something completely new for me. But I will learn and take away so much from it."

When play began under a sunny sky, it was Bartoli who looked jittery, double-faulting twice in a row to drop the opening game.

Then it was Lisicki's turn to serve, and she returned the favor, double-faulting on break point — her last serve barely reaching the bottom of the net — to make it 1-all.

From there, Bartoli took over, winning 11 of 12 games, and doing exactly what her father, a doctor who taught his daughter how to play, used to hope and imagine could happen in such an important match. Standing inside the baseline — another sign of individuality — Bartoli got back serves that topped 110 mph. She won the point on 9 of 11 trips to the net. She dictated the flow of baseline exchanges, thinking one or two moves ahead, the way one tries to do in chess, her father's favorite pastime.

"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."

  • related content

  • Photo gallery: Wimbledon; Marion Bartoli is finally a champion

    Saturday July 6, 2013

    Marion Bartoli is finally a champion at Wimbledon, She didn't drop a set at the Grand Slam tournament in...

  • Marion Bartoli of France returns to Sabine Lisicki of Germany during their Women's singles final match at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Saturday, July 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

  • Marion Bartoli of France smiles as she holds the trophy after winning the Women's singles final match against Sabine Lisicki of Germany at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, Saturday, July 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 21 4th Qtr 7:55
Seattle 24
Miami 83 FINAL
Boston 75
LA Lakers 80 FINAL
New York 92
Arizona 3 FINAL
Montreal 2
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Nashville 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 0
Minnesota 4 FINAL
Vancouver 2
Miami-Florida 54 FINAL
Florida State 55
Oakland 96 FINAL
Youngstown St 80
Cincinnati 46 FINAL
East Carolina 50
Michigan 66 FINAL
Michigan State 76
Marist 75 FINAL
Canisius 67
Fordham 77 FINAL
Dayton 101
Manhattan 87 FINAL
Monmouth 76
Quinnipiac 100 FINAL
Niagara 105
Utah 67 FINAL
USC 39
Connecticut 68 FINAL
Houston 70
California 90 FINAL
Washington 88
North Dakota St 64 FINAL
Western Ill 62
Penn State 65 FINAL
(22) Rutgers 76
(14) Texas 59 FINAL
TCU 64
Coll of Charleston 49 FINAL
Towson 71
Cornell 53 FINAL
Yale 60
Xavier 68 FINAL
Providence 57
Drexel 61 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 44
Stony Brook 60 FINAL
New Hampshire 52
Maine 52 FINAL
Albany 44
Miami-Florida 66 FINAL
Pittsburgh 81
(21) Georgia 72 FINAL
(10) Kentucky 80
Arizona 69 FINAL
Colorado 81
Wake Forest 63 FINAL
(4) Notre Dame 92
Loyola-Chicago 56 FINAL
Illinois State 72
(24) Oklahoma 69 FINAL
West Virginia 78
St Johns 73 FINAL
Seton Hall 78
Delaware 73 FINAL
Hofstra 62
Binghamton 49 FINAL
UMass Lowell 66
Vermont 49 FINAL
Hartford 60
William & Mary 72 FINAL
Northeastern 66
Boston College 60 FINAL
(16) North Carolina 72
Virginia 77 FINAL
Clemson 72
(2) Connecticut 83 FINAL
Temple 49
Arkansas 53 FINAL
Alabama 42
Virginia Tech 71 FINAL
Georgia Tech 79
Kansas 58 FINAL
(3) Baylor 66
Canisius 51 FINAL
Rider 52
Monmouth 52 FINAL
Fairfield 54
Quinnipiac 81 FINAL
Saint Peters 50
Butler 55 FINAL
Creighton 62
Wichita State 61 FINAL
Drake 64
Evansville 52 FINAL
Indiana State 67
(18) Miss State 67 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 79
Villanova 47 FINAL
DePaul 49
Georgetown 73 FINAL
Marquette 80
North Texas 55 FINAL
Rice 58
Auburn 45 FINAL
(12) Texas A&M 78
(11) Arizona State 58 FINAL
Utah 48
Missouri State 56 FINAL
Northern Iowa 64
Michigan 60 FINAL
(15) Nebraska 75
Minnesota 49 FINAL
Northwestern 70
Wisconsin 73 FINAL
Illinois 62
Bradley 59 FINAL
Southern Ill 76
Florida 67 FINAL
Vanderbilt 58
(20) Iowa 88 FINAL
(5) Maryland 93
(1) South Carolina 77 FINAL
Ole Miss 59

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who wins the Super Bowl?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close