Marion Bartoli finally has her day
LONDON -- A Grand Slam singles title is a game-changer on a résumé.
After winning the French Open in 2011, Li Na became a sensation in China and one of the richest female athletes in the world. Petra Kvitova followed with a victory at Wimbledon and the Czech Republic was abuzz. There are only three other one-time major winners active among women: Francesca Schiavone, Samantha Stosur and Ana Ivanovic. The first line in their obituaries will undoubtedly include the phrase "Grand Slam champion."
Perhaps this was in the back of Sabine Lisicki and Marion Bartoli's minds when they stepped onto Centre Court on a gorgeous (a tad warm, actually), sunny day. This was their chance for a first major and their nerves were, not surprisingly, a bit askew.
To be kind, they felt the gravity of the moment.Bartoli, the quirky, colorful Frenchwoman, opened the match by losing the first game with back-to-back double-faults. And then Lisicki, the 23-year-old from Germany, double-faulted to give Bartoli back the break.
But that was where they parted ways. Bartoli won the last six games of the first set, breaking all three of Lisicki's service games. There were moments when Lisicki seemed on the verge of tears.
That is how championships are won. And lost.
Six years after she fell in the final here to Venus Williams, Bartoli captured her first Grand Slam singles title by a score of 6-1, 6-4. The match -- and that is a strong word -- was over in 81 minutes.
Bartoli won all 14 of her sets here at the All England Club.
"Honestly, I just can't believe it," Bartoli said. "I dreamed about this moment for so long, since I was 6 years old. I was here in 2007, and I know how it feels [to lose]."
In her on-court interview, Lisicki was still wiping away tears. She was brutally honest.
"I was just overwhelmed by the whole situation," Lisicki said, voice quavering. "Credit to Marion, she's been in that situation and she handled it well.
"I hope I will get the chance one more time."
The top three seeds -- Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova -- were all gone before the quarterfinals, but that created some unprecedented opportunities. None of the four semifinalists had ever won a Grand Slam singles title, and when they were down to two, it was the No. 23 seed (Lisicki) versus the No. 15 (Bartoli).
It's not her fault, but Bartoli is the first player to win the title at Wimbledon without facing a top-15 seed en route. It had only happened previously at one Grand Slam in the Open era, when a player won the title without facing a top-15 seed: the 1976 French Open (Sue Barker). Bartoli's first four opponents were unseeded, and the highest-seeded player she beat was No. 17 Sloane Stephens.
A few years ago, Bartoli sent her father, Walter, away from the court she was playing on. Earlier this year, she made the decision permanent, effectively firing the man who made her a seven-time WTA champion. This seems to have had a liberating effect on her.
With Amelie Mauresmo -- one of only two women from France to have previously won the Wimbledon title -- in her player box, Bartoli, at 28, seems to be enjoying her tennis more.
After she won, Bartoli embraced Lisicki warmly at net, then sprinted into the stands and hugged those in her box -- Mauresmo before her father.
They had met four times, with the German winning three of four, but there was an asterisk. The two split their meetings at Wimbledon, with Bartoli winning in straight sets in a 2008 first-round encounter and Lisicki taking their 2011 quarterfinal in three sets.
When Bartoli captured the first set (in a scant 30 minutes), this statistic loomed large: Since 2008, the winner of the first set in the women's Grand Slam final has posted a 20-2 record.
Bartoli consolidated her advantage early in the second set. She fought off four break points at 0-1, then broke Lisicki for the fourth time. The German's service toss, like those nerves, was all over the place. The fifth break came soon enough, with a Lisicki forehand into the net.
By now, Lisicki was crying openly -- on the court and the changeover chair, too.
She saved some face in the second set, collecting a trio of games and saving three match points.
This will be a popular win in the WTA locker room.
Lisicki is not beloved by her playing peers. She is seen as overly dramatic and sometimes a bit precious. After losing to Lisicki in the semifinals, Agnieszka Radwanska turned away as their hands met.
Fittingly, Bartoli cracked an ace on match point.
"I've been practicing my serve for so long," she said afterward. "At least I saved it for the best moment."