Watching Marion Bartoli is rarely a dull experience. In the fourth round, the No.15 seed completed a workmanlike victory over the world No.104 Karin Knapp, winning 6-2, 6-3 in 72 minutes on Court 12 to take her place in the last eight. It was as routine a victory as really should be expected, given the twin factors that Knapp had never got beyond Wimbledon’s first round before, and that Bartoli may now regain her top 10 place when the new rankings come out next Monday. But it was the hyper-level of her body language throughout which was so extraordinary.
The 2007 Wimbledon runner-up is famous for her constant series of tics as she bounces on the spot whether serving or receiving. But during this match she was in near-manic mode, regularly rehearsing ultra-fast shadow strokeplay on the baseline between points and bouncing around so much between points that spectators – including Amelie Mauresmo, in her capacity in charge of the French Fed Cup team – might have wondered if she was somewhat overdoing it.
“I didn’t play so well but at least I didn’t use up a lot of energy,” Bartoli remarked, apparently without irony. “I have much more confidence on grass so have better results here than at Roland Garros. It suits me much better here and I play better.”
The irony of the extra-curricular physical twitchiness is that Bartoli has yet to drop a set this fortnight. A further irony is that, despite that encouraging statistic, more than one match has somehow contrived to look like a battle, as is the Frenchwoman’s wont. But there was very little of the battle about this win over Knapp, where the gulf in class was evident from the off.
They had met only once before in 2008, when Bartoli permitted the Italian just one game. What is interesting about that is that 2008 was Knapp’s annus mirabilis, when her game was at its height and she reached her career high ranking of 35 until illness forced her out for several months, and her game never recovered. In this match – which was virgin Grand Slam territory for Knapp – with her ranking some 69 places lower, she was able to get closer to respectability, especially given that she broke Bartoli’s serve in the first set, albeit that it left her still another break adrift. Moreover, she negated the gain by her inability to hold her own serve and Bartoli served out the set to love.
Knapp, who turned 26 last Friday, fared little better in the second. The last time Bartoli lost in a Slam to a player ranked outside the top 100 was here in last year’s second round, where she succumbed to the No.129 Vojislava Lukic. Perhaps Bartoli deemed all the bouncing necessary to be sure she was in the mental zone to avoid a repeat embarrassment. She came into the tournament short of grass-court play having withdrawn from Birmingham with a right ankle problem and then also Eastbourne (albeit after a first round win) with a virus.
Her display in this match was not overwhelming – her winners were cancelled out by her errors and her second serve was at 35 per cent. But Knapp’s was still worse at 21 per cent, and what Bartoli definitely did was convert most of the break points which came her way.
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
20:19It was the wackiest of Wimbledons with the most unlikely of headline-makers: Sergiy Stakhovsky, Steve Darcis, Michelle Larcher de Brito, Kimiko-Date Krumm, Jerzy Janowicz, Sabine Lisicki, Marion Bartoli...View all