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A champion at last, Marion Bartoli wins Wimbledon title

Marion Bartoli collapses after her win in the Ladies' final.
by Ronald Atkin
Saturday 6 July 2013

Marion Bartoli, the nearly girl of the 2007 Championships, finally realised the dream she first had as a six-year-old by winning the Ladies' Singles title on Centre Court today. Her 6-1, 6-4 victory over Sabine Lisicki, while thoroughly deserved, was considerably eased by a nervy performance by her opponent until late in the second set.

At 6-1, 5-1 Bartoli had three match points, a crisis which finally stirred Lisicki into a late, but eventually vain, rally. As she hammered down an ace on her fourth match point at 5-4, the 28-year-old Frenchwoman dropped her racket, fell to her knees and then rose to embrace her opponent at the net before setting off on the climb to the box occupied by her team, which included the only other Frenchwoman to have won Wimbledon in the Open Era, Amelie Mauresmo.

There was a special hug for her father, Dr Walter Bartoli, who had been her coach from her first days as a professional until this year, when they jointly decided that if she was to win a Grand Slam, Marion needed fresh guidance. And so it came to pass.

She had lost the 2007 Wimbledon final to Venus Williams after causing a sensation by eliminating the top seed Justine Henin in the semi-finals, but here was belated and sweet revenge for that disappointment. With the Royal Box graced by the presence of so many great ladies' champions, from Billie Jean King onwards, Bartoli showed the determination and skill which makes such champions.

After successive double-faults had cost Bartoli her serve in the opening game, she took the match to Lisicki, attacking her on both flanks and raising a clenched fist time and again as the set went rapidly her way. She had had her slices of luck by not having to face an opponent seeded in the top 10, the first Wimbledon winner to do so in the Open era, but did not drop a set in the entire fortnight and finally, in her 47th Grand Slam, won her first major title.

Even when she was 4-1 up in the first set Bartoli was seeking ways to do even better, and she sent two of her rackets to her coaching team's box to have them restrung. They were returned at a crucial time, just as Lisicki got back to 4-5 in the second set, and Bartoli promptly used one to serve out to love, ending with only her second ace of the match.

Bartoli wrapped up the first set in just half an hour and though she was made to fight harder in the second set she embarked on another irresistible surge of five successive games and was resilient enough to fight off the German counter-attack. She is £1.6 million richer, but what matters to this woman of unique and assorted talent is that her childhood dream finally came true.

At her news conference, Bartoli was still struggling to come to terms with her achievement. "I still can't realise I'm a Wimbledon champion, it's just so overwhelming," she said.
"As a pro your dream is to win a Grand Slam, you dream about it every single day, you think about it every single day. So when it actually happens you have achieved something you have dreamed about for millions of hours. You went through pain, you went through tears, you went through low moments. Then, once it happens, in those five, 10 seconds before you shake the hand of your opponent, you feel you're almost not walking any more on earth. You're really flying.
"That was the perfect day. It was sunny, it was beautiful. Centre Court was packed. I won in two sets, I didn't drop a set the whole Championship. Even in my perfect dream I couldn't have dreamed a moment like that. That is beyond perfection.
"I felt I played probably my best match of the Championships. I was doing everything well, moving well returning well. I really played a wonderful match. It's really amazing to win Wimbledon and to do it playing well, it's just unbelievable. And to finish on an ace. I could have seen it in slow motion. I could see the ball landing, the chalk coming up. You cannot put any words to what I felt in this moment.
"Being called 'Wimbledon champion' will not change me as a person because I will always remain the same, very humble, very low-key and easy-going, down to earth. Just hearing 'Wimbledon champion' kind of sounds good to me. I wanted that so badly." 

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