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'I just don't want to change' - Marion Bartoli

Marion Bartoli runs across court as she celebrates her Ladies' Championship victory over Sabine Lisicki.
by Alexandra Willis
Sunday 7 July 2013

The 2013 Ladies' Singles Champion, Marion Bartoli, spoke to Wimbledon.com following her career-defining win...

It was around 8.30pm. Marion Bartoli had been escorted to press conference, interview, interview, round table, round table, round table, back-to-back-to-back, with not even a moment's respite to eat the smoked salmon and brown bread sandwich sitting somewhat forlornly on the desk in press conference room two. She was still wearing grey tracksuit bottoms and a workout-type top, no glitz and glamour here. 

You become very much in demand when you are the Wimbledon champion. 

By that stage, you might well expect her to have become a little weary of answering the same questions over and over. Or at least not respond to them quite so well. But, as we've come to discover, Marion Bartoli is unique. And she saved one of her best lines of the day for last. 

"Did I dream about having a model contract? No, I'm sorry. Did I dream about winning Wimbledon, absolutely yes."

Bartoli was responding to the suggestion that she has had to work harder in life because she did not look like Maria Sharapova. And she quashed it as firmly as she delivered that final ace on match point, reminding those of us in the room that no, she is not blonde. "That's a fact," she laughs. 

On the contrary, Bartoli freely admits that she has not always led a charmed life. 

"It was not really my tennis results it was more my private life," she explains when asked about why she had described herself as hitting 'rock bottom' earlier this year. "And it was really hard to take, I couldn't focus when I was on the court, I couldn't even enjoy being myself. I was almost a bit depressed. But somehow the wheel turned and I had my moment."

And then she pauses. 

"Maybe it was meant to be like that," she says. "Maybe you have to go through those tough times to bounce back and to have this ultimate high."

Losing a Grand Slam final is not an easy experience to forget. Just ask Andy Murray, and today, Sabine Lisicki. But it was not so much the way she played, or didn't play, in her unsuccessful Championships attempt in 2007 which stayed with Bartoli. It was not making the most of the occasion. 

"It was not really painful to lose because Venus was just way too good for me, I had absolutely no chance during that final," she remembers. "What was the most painful for me was not enjoying the moment, I was so overwhelmed at the whole situation.

"So I really wanted this time to enjoy every second of it, no matter what was the result, enjoy, embrace the situation, being out there, playing the final of Wimbledon, on Saturday at 2 o’clock. When I saw the packed stadium, beautiful sky, I thought gosh this is going to be a great moment. And it was."

Practising with her father on icy, hole-ridden tennis courts late at night after school, the limited space on the court the reason for her quirky and quizzical style, driving hundreds of kilometres to tournaments while doing her homework in the back of the car –  "that made me the person that I am right now on the court, it's coming all from that," she says almost proudly. 

"When I was younger they [the French Tennis Federation coaches] tried to switch me back to a one-handed forehand, but when they saw my one-handed forehand they said 'OK that's fine, just stick with yours!'" she laughs.

"When I was watching the other players and then watching myself two metres inside the court returning a serve, I was like, 'OK, I'm a bit different’."

But Bartoli, who will arrive at Sunday's Champions' Dinner in what she describes as "extremely high heels, a short green dress and let the hair and makeups do the magic," is not someone who tries to be a certain way. She greets the fabled tale of her higher-than-average IQ with a sort of embarrassment. 

"I'm not calling myself a genius," she says. "I love to make fun of myself, I'm not the kind of person who is saying gosh I'm so perfect.

"I'm totally the opposite, I'm probably doing a million stupid things a day, I'm just trying not to be a pain for the people around me, just to be normal. I will definitely want to stay like that because I just don't want to change."

She's a Wimbledon champion now. She doesn't have to change a thing.

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