July 7, 2013

Wimbledon: Bartoli's the last standing

In a Wimbledon women's tournament of injuries and upsets, Marion Bartoli wins her first Grand Slam title.

The Associated Press

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

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Marion Bartoli of France was in a place she dreamed she’d be someday, among the crowd, exuberant as the Wimbledon women’s champion. She never lost a set in the two-week event, and dispatched Sabine Lisicki of Germany in an error-strewn final, 6-1, 6-4.

The Associated Press

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2013: Marion Bartoli

2012: Serena Williams

2011: Petra Kvitova

2010: Serena Williams

2009: Serena Williams

2008: Venus Williams

2007: Venus Williams

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 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 in an error-filled, one-sided final Saturday 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 hand. "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, the most 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.

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

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

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

"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 had been on this stage with the same stakes. 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 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 the injuries and surprises 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, rattled by every little thing, even the walk downstairs from the locker room and the final-afternoon ritual of players carrying bouquets of flowers when they enter the arena.

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

"I felt fine this morning but it's an occasion you don't get every day. 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 1-1.

(Continued on page 2)

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