MARION Bartoli walked out on to Centre Court on Saturday determined to win a Grand Slam title at her 47th attempt. More importantly, she was equally determined to enjoy herself.
Six years earlier, the Frenchwoman had been comfortably beaten in the Wimbledon final by Venus Williams after succumbing to the pressure of the occasion. This time, she was certain that the key to victory was staying loose and allowing her natural talent and exuberance to shine through.
She was right, too. This time it was Sabine Lisicki who wilted in her first Grand Slam final, and Bartoli ran out an all too easy winner, taking the title 6-1 6-4.
“I remember telling myself this morning: ‘You’re going to enjoy this one’, because I did not really enjoy 2007,” she said. “I was so overwhelmed by the whole situation. I felt so tight, so nervous, so stressed. This time, I really wanted to enjoy it, no matter what the result. If Sabine had played an amazing match, that would be perfect for her, but I really wanted to go out there and enjoy every second of it and leave it all on the court. And obviously, it worked out.
“I just felt that, somehow, it was my time. Going through the championship, during the first week, I felt I was playing some great tennis and maybe I would have a shot this year. But being a Grand Slam champion, especially at Wimbledon, which has always been my dream, is beyond amazing.”
It was a long wait from that 2007 final, and no other woman in the open era had won a major after so many attempts – the record previously having been held by Jana Novotna, whose 1998 Wimbledon triumph was her first Grand Slam after 45 attempts. “To me, it does not matter winning at 47, 52, 40, whatever,” Bartoli continued.
“I have won one and I am happy with it. I just wanted it so badly and I think that showed on court, in my eyes and the way I carry on. I was so determined to win one.
“I always believed I would play another Grand Slam final. It was more of a question of would I actually win it. But I really thought I would have another shot at one, which was good for me. It has been the perfect two weeks. I will remember them forever. So much love, so much fun outside of the court.”
It was not much fun for Lisicki on court, as the German, so effective and aggressive at her best, failed to hold her serve once in the first set. She had a mini-revival from 5-1 down in the second, but was struggling to hold back the tears long before her defeat was confirmed.
“I felt so sorry for her,” Bartoli said. “I felt I wanted to take her in my arms at some point because it was hard to see her like that. To cry on court during a Wimbledon final, you must feel so lonely.
“I just wanted to help her, tell her: ‘It’s OK, it’s just a tennis match.’ The hug we had after the match was extremely sweet. It was just perfect, showing the human values and sportsmanship values both of us carry on to the court. I think it shows also in our attitude, the respect we show to each other, which is great.”
With an IQ rating of 175, Bartoli might be tempted to get carried away by her own intelligence as well as by her tennis ability. But she insisted that this win would not sweep her off her feet.
“I did that IQ test when I was nine. I think if I did it now, it would come out at just 75. But I do not call myself a genius. I do not look at myself every morning and think: ‘Oh, my gosh, I am so perfect, so beautiful, so talented.’ No, no, I am not this kind of person at all. I have a lot of auto-derision. I like to make fun of myself.
“I am sure I do a million stupid things in one day. I do not consider myself a genius, but I like to draw, paintings, but I am very normal, down-to-earth person and, tomorrow, I am sure I will go to my coffee shop, ordering my coffee, queuing for it, paying for it, waiting for it. Absolutely normal things.”
The fact that the final was contested by the 15th and 23rd seeds – the winner being the higher ranked of the two – has suggested that a new period is emerging in the women’s game.
Serena Williams turns 32 in the autumn, and Maria Sharapova, while several years younger, is not the force she was. Bartoli believes that a victory for a player such as her can inspire more girls to take up the game and have confidence in their ability to succeed.
“I think it shows that anything is possible and that a different style of play [can] win a Grand Slam. I think it is very interesting for the public to see different faces, to see someone other than Serena or Sharapova can win a Grand Slam. I think it gives some girls who want to be a tennis champion one day, gives them the will to be a tennis pro player. It can be boring to see every time the same players winning.
“If it was just Serena Williams winning the Grand Slams, then girls may think why should they even start if it is only Serena Williams winning. Then they see me, who is not very tall, not very fast – even if I did move well today – just a normal girl winning a Grand Slam.”