Wednesday 3 July 2013
The feisty Marion Bartoli – runner-up in the ladies' singles final on Centre Court in 2007, quarter-finalist in 2011 and now through to the semi-finals – has a very idiosyncratic demeanour on court. She's hyperactive between points, unbelievably focused and plays each point like she has a personal vendetta against the ball.
She hails from Le Puy-en-Velay, a town in south-central France whose inhabitants are known as Ponots. The altar site of its cathedral marks a starting-point for pilgrims en route to Santiago de Compostela, one of the most frequented pilgrimages in the Middle Ages. Our Lady of Puy is thus the Virgin Mary, but Bartoli, who now resides in Switzerland, is proudly embraced by her hometown.
Indeed some of its most famous inhabitants have boasted traits that collectively contribute to a fine sporting temperament.
For fighting spirit, Bartoli can look to the Marquis de la Fayette (1757-1834) who joined the American Revolution at the age of 19 and was a leader of the National Guard during the French Revolution. For a fearless approach to higher-ranked players, she can call upon the spirit of Peire Cardenal (1180-1278), an Occitan troubadour who penned satirical verses to upset convention.
Sporting heritage is shared with three football players (Grégory Coupet, former goalkeeper of Paris Saint Germain and of the French national team; Sidney Govou, who also played for the French national team; and Jérémy Perbet, who plays for as a striker for La Liga club Villareal) and one rugby union star (Julien Malzieu of ASM Clermont Auvergne and the French national team). For that extra edge on a competitive mindset, Marion need only recall Courtol, a Ponot famed as an 18th century viper hunter.
The Frenchwoman is a bit of Renaissance character herself. Away from tennis, she paints to relax: “It allows me to save energy while bringing me a lot of pleasure”. Other cultural interests include cinema. At Wimbledon in 2007 she claimed the reason for her turnaround in coming from behind to stun top-seeded Justine Henin in the semi-final was spotting Pierce Brosnan in the Royal Box and determining to play with 007 indomitability.
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