By Blair Henley / Sunday, August 25, 2013
On the Sunday before main draw play begins at the U.S. Open, Marion Bartoli stood, hair curled, sky-high heels intact, behind a podium at a luxury Manhattan hotel to address the press. It’s a standard scenario for one of the world’s top players leading up to the final Grand Slam of the year – until you remember that the world No. 7 is there to discuss her retirement rather than her U.S. Open title prospects.
Marion Bartoli left countless questions in the wake of her sudden retirement in Cincinnati. She answered
them all in a New York press conference Sunday.
(Photo Credit: Getty)
Less than two months after capturing the 2013 Wimbledon title, the 28-year-old rocked the tennis world by ending her career in Cincinnati after a second round loss to Simona Halep at the Western & Southern Open.
The announcement was bizarre and fanfare-free, making it easy to wonder if it was premeditated for shock value. It wasn’t, of course, because this is Marion Bartoli we’re talking about. She claims she hadn’t once considered walking away until after that fateful match.
“I’m someone who has always been honest about my feelings and always expressed what I deeply felt,” she explained, her sweet-sounding voice in sharp contrast to the punishing groundstrokes she was known for on the court. "I just can’t see myself doing the press conference saying, ‘Oh yeah, she played well, I didn’t play so well, and I’m going to prepare for the U.S. Open,’ knowing it’s absolutely not the truth. For me, that is how I felt at that exact moment."
The fact that Bartoli pondered her retirement for less time than it took her to win the Wimbledon final fits the Frenchwoman’s modus operandi. After all, this is the girl who has run through Jedi-inspired tennis drills (in public), shooed her parents out of the stands at Wimbledon, and worn Christian Louboutin booties to every event imaginable (whether appropriate or not). She is impervious or perhaps just oblivious to the perception of the public, a quality that is refreshing and frustrating at the same time.
Let’s not forget that as a result of her Wimbledon win, Bartoli’s marketability is at an all-time high. Her decision to throw in the sweaty towel potentially cost her millions. But her desire to stay true to herself trumped her desire to pad her bank account.
“[The money] didn’t cross my mind,” she said firmly. “First of all, I never played for the money. I always played for the game and because I really wanted to be the best I could be. Not any money in the world can buy what I’ve been going through in terms of pain, and how I’m feeling on the court, and how I’m feeling after my losses.”
Throughout her career, Bartoli’s relationship with her father and coach, Walter, made headlines almost as often as her tennis. A doctor by trade, his habit of gesticulating wildly in the stands earned him a reputation for being overbearing and out-of-touch. But in the wake of her Wimbledon win, the dynamic father/daughter duo has had the last laugh. When the two embraced in her box following the most triumphant moment of her career, the love expressed was unmistakable. His reaction to her retirement was equally endearing.
“I talked to my dad right after the match in Cincy, and he told me that he was very proud of me and that he supports my decision 100 percent,” she said. “And he will support me in any direction I’m taking after my tennis career. What he said is, ‘I’m so proud of everything you have done.’ That’s all that matters to me.”
So where does Bartoli go from here? She will be commentating for a French television outlet at the U.S. Open. She will also continue her work with Prince, helping them with a potential store opening in Paris. Best of all, she says she may even consider writing a book.
But as confident as she feels about her decision to retire, she hasn’t completely ruled out the possibility of a comeback. “I’m still in the rankings, and I’ll be there until the end of the year,” she said with a wry smile. “It’s very hard to say I will never come back.”
For now, Marion Bartoli says she couldn’t be happier. And if she never sets foot on a tennis court again, she knows how she wants to be remembered: “As one of the nicest people...and Wimbledon champion.”