They were two unlikely combatants in the 2013 ladies’ final at Wimbledon, and it was a match that proved as surprising as the two women contesting it.
Marion Bartoli, who until her semi-final against Kirsten Flipkens had not played on Centre Court this year and had not faced a top-15 foe, played one of the matches of her life, defying a meagre pre-Wimbledon season record of 14-12 to lift the sport’s most prestigious trophy.
It was her opponent, Sabine Lisicki – she of the barnstorming run through some of the biggest names in the draw – who froze when the glare of the spotlight was at its brightest.
We take a look at where Bartoli – a 6-1, 6-4 victor – won the final and where it was lost for the German.
Handling the occasion
As the two women walked down the corridors and on to Centre Court, both looked happy and relaxed, a picture that persisted into the warm-up. But that changed as soon as the match got underway.
Bartoli shrugged off a double fault to surrender her serve in the opening game and set about righting the wrong, leaning into her groundstrokes and smoking them into the corners. She wasn’t afraid to go after her shots despite the extreme pressure, and played with purpose and intent, fist-pumping all the way.
Lisicki, by contrast, went away from the strategy that had got her to this point of the tournament. She was hesitant and tentative, unable to unload on her booming forehand. When she tried, errors flowed.
And when her game collapsed, so did her resolve. She looked ready to burst into tears when an error handed Bartoli a break point for a 5-1 lead, and the tears openly flowed in the fifth game of the second set when the match was slipping from her grasp.
Bartoli’s killer instinct
Another player, seeing Lisicki weeping at the other end of the court, might have sympathised, or lost their own concentration.
Not Bartoli. The Frenchwoman, fiercely competitive, relished this turn of events. She jumped on anything short or soft delivered by the German, and clearly had her game face on, pumping her fist and glaring as she drove one of the final nails into the coffin with a break to lead 6-1, 4-1.
Lisicki not exploiting Bartoli’s foot-speed
Bartoli has done a sterling job over the years of improving her footwork and court coverage, but has never been the fastest player around the court. Her reach is further restricted by the fact she plays double-handed on both wings.
Lisicki failed to exploit this. Too often she played the ball down the middle of the court, most likely a product of her frayed nerves. It allowed Bartoli to control the centre of the court – a dynamic she loves – and thus the tempo and pattern of rallies.
Net proves happy hunting ground for Bartoli
She’s known for her relentless play from the baseline, but in today’s final, Bartoli found surprising success in the forecourt. By the time she’d held serve for a 3-1 lead in the second set, she’d won the point on nine of her 11 trips to the net, mixing up her offensives with drive-volley, traditional-volley and overhead winners.
Bartoli was sometimes coaxed forward in response to the German's drop shots, but the stat simply exemplified her hyper-aggressive approach to the match.
The one thing that threatened to have an impact on the result was the loyalty of the crowd. Having been captivated by Lisicki’s run throughout the draw in 2013 – as well as in previous years – they were firmly in her corner, especially when willing the German to recover from the 6-1, 5-1 hole she found herself in.
And it definitely helped. Lisicki found a new gear in the seventh game, fending off three championship points on her serve and then breaking the Frenchwoman when she first served for the title. When she clawed back to 5-4, the atmosphere was electric – the crowd wanted more.
But while the crowd were behind Lisicki, they were by no means against Bartoli. And when the Frenchwoman played an exceptional game at 5-4 to hold to love and clinch the title, they embraced the first-time winner, who charmed them even further with her delightful on-court presentation speech.
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