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With Conviction, Bartoli Breaks into Grand Slam Pantheon
By Chris Oddo
(July 6, 2013) --
If there is a lesson to be learned from
6-1, 6-4 victory over Sabine Lisicki
in today's Wimbledon women's singles final, it is that some dreams take time to reach their fruition. A player may set her goals and sketch out her timetables, but sometimes the critical ingredients in the making of a Grand Slam champion are patience and perseverance.
Bartoli Wins Wimbledon
For Bartoli, to persevere meant enduring a six-year wait between Grand Slam finals, off-court drama that included a long and well-documented spat with the French Tennis Federation, constant criticism for her quirky, unorthodox playing style, and a breakup of sorts with her father, mentor and longtime coach, Walter Bartoli.
But once her final ace had sailed past her opponent on match point, none of that mattered anymore. Bartoli now held a long-coveted title, one that would forever be associated with her legendary work ethic and her burning desire to compete, regardless of the stage or the stakes. The toil, hardships and perplexing low and high points of the previous years a speck getting smaller in the rear view mirror, Bartoli can now contemplate her new reality.
Nobody Has Waited Longer Than Bartoli to Win a Maiden Slam
“I can't believe I won Wimbledon this year,” she said, still getting used to her new celebrity status. “We'll have to see the pictures, to see the match again on DVD to kind of start to realize it.”
Trained since she was six years old to compete with a very rare breed of intensity, reflecting on this landmark achievement so soon after holding the Venus Rosewater dish in her hands for the first time is probably the one thing that a capricious pugilist like Bartoli was unprepared to do on Saturday.
Still, she tried.
“Just to finish on an ace to win Wimbledon and you saw the chalk come out of the line,” Bartoli said. “I mean, I could have seen it in slow motion. I could see the ball landing, the chalk come out, it's an ace, and I just win Wimbledon. You can't describe that kind of feeling.”
Some were quick to recognize the fact that Bartoli had become the first WTA player in Open Era history to win Wimbledon without facing a top 10-seeded opponent, but the true merit of Bartoli's shining moment lies not in who she played but how she played.
She did not drop a set for the whole tournament, and lost only eight games in the final two matches.
Long known for her unorthodox, double-fisted playing style and neurotic shadow boxing between points, Bartoli's remarkable shotmaking capacities often go overlooked, as does her resilience. But after a day in which she ran her favored opponent ragged en route to
breaking the WTA's record for most Grand Slams played before winning a first title (47)
, nobody will question the efficacy of Bartoli's game or her resolve.
Toting her trademark feistiness and the self-assurance of a woman who had been there and done that at Wimbledon before, Bartoli raced out to big leads in both sets after dropping the first game to Lisicki.
Lisicki, bidding to become the first German to win Wimbledon since Steffi Graf's last title at the All England Club in 1996, seemed to be suffering from anxiety from the start. “You try to calm yourself down as much as you can with different techniques, breathing techniques that usually help,” Lisicki said of her bout with nerves, “but [it] didn't help today.”
Meanwhile, Bartoli forced the issue with an aggressive gameplan that featured repeated forays to the net, sharply struck groundstrokes and a beefed-up first serve that gave Lisicki problems all afternoon.
By the end of the 30-minute first set it was clear that it was going to take a monumental comeback from Lisicki to turn the match around.
Having overcome adversity early and often over the course of a fortnight that saw her defeat three former Grand Slam champions and the world's No. 1 and No. 4-ranked players, it was not difficult to imagine a Lisicki comeback, despite the fact that the winner of the first set had won 20 of the last 22 women's singles Grand Slam finals coming into the match.
After holding serve in the first game of the second set with a booming slice serve out wide, Lisicki pumped her fist and let out a growl.
But things quickly unraveled for Lisicki from there. It got so bad that she would break out into tears briefly when a double-fault at deuce gave Bartoli yet another break point, which she converted for a 4-1 lead.
After falling behind 5-1, Lisicki did manage to provide some drama. She played three brilliant games to close to 5-4, saving three match points in the process, and put the pressure on Bartoli to serve the match out.
“I tried everything,” Lisicki lamented. “I went out there in the second set and nearly got it back to level. I think that is definitely something that will help me for the future.”
But this day was Bartoli's day, and that fact would be made clear when the Frenchwoman served the match out to love, kissing the chalk with her final serve and dropping to her knees temporarily before rising in disbelief with her hands raised querulously above her head.
She may have dreamt about it ever since her first trip to the Wimbledon final six years ago when she lost to Venus Williams in straight sets at the tender age of 22, but it is unlikely that Marion Bartoli could've pictured a final so perfect, even in fantasy.
On the game's greatest stage, Bartoli produced her most resplendent tennis. There were no hiccups, no lulls, no doubts. Only the stuff that dreams are made of. Backhands lashed at wicked angles into the open court. Drive volleys and smashes hit with incredible force. Anything Lisicki threw at her, Bartoli tracked down and sent back with interest.
She turned the hallowed grass of Wimbledon's Centre Court into her very own field of dreams.
“That was the perfect day,” she told reporters afterwards. “It was sunny. It was beautiful. Centre Court Wimbledon, it was packed. I won in two sets. I didn't drop a set for the whole championship. Even in my perfect dream I couldn't have dreamed a perfect moment like that.”
The significance of Bartoli's effort was not lost on her opponent, who is already no doubt dreaming of following in her footsteps. “She's been here in the final quite a while ago,” Lisicki said. “She made it here for a second time and she won it. You know, that is a good story, I think.”
More than just a good story, Bartoli's triumph is a lesson to the rest of the tour that you can be unorthodox, you can be quirky, you can be whatever you like. As long as you are willing to put in the hard yards, anything can happen.
“I actually love that part of my game,” Bartoli said of her dare-to-be-different mindset. “You know, being able to have something different. At the end of the day, when the spectators were looking at 10 matches they will remember this girl that was doing something different, playing inside the court or whatever.”
Now they will remember that she was a Wimbledon champion, too.
(Photo Credit: AP)
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