Monday 22 July 2019

Bartoli aiming to put dark days behind her

France's Marion Bartoli celebrates defeating Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens
France's Marion Bartoli celebrates defeating Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens

Paul Hirst

Marion Bartoli completes her journey from rock bottom to the most prestigious match in women's tennis tomorrow when she steps out on Centre Court to contest the Wimbledon final against Sabine Lisicki.

The Frenchwoman's flawless progression through the championships, where she has yet to lose a set, is remarkable for a number of reasons.

Before Wimbledon Bartoli had not made it past the third round of any tournament this year, and her long partnership with father Walter as her coach had come to an end.

The professional relationship between Bartoli and her father, who gave up his career as a doctor to become her coach, has sometimes proved to be a difficult one.

Two years ago famously at Wimbledon, Bartoli ordered him to leave the Court 12 stands after becoming annoyed by his presence.

Shortly after their split in February, Bartoli admitted she found it hard coping on tour without her father's presence.

"There are tough days when I feel very lonely... I get back to my hotel room and I turn around and say 'Dad' and there is no one there anymore," Bartoli told Tennis Journal.

Today, without explaining the precise cause of her recent unhappiness, Bartoli admitted she had gone through a particularly rough patch.

"There is something off the court, it's private, but it kind of affected me in my mood and my results because it was a tough thing to deal with," Bartoli said.

"I had some very low moments when I pretty much hit rock bottom. But what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

The sad times seem to be well and truly consigned to the past now.

She may be nearly 500 miles from her current residence of Geneva, but for Bartoli, Wimbledon feels like home.

She enjoys walks through Wimbledon Village, cooking her own food in her base for the tournament and above all she enjoys playing on the lush grass of the All England Club, where she made the final six years ago.

She is so comfortable in SW19 that she even found time for a half-hour nap in the locker room just before her 6-1 6-2 win over Kirsten Flipkens yesterday.

Part of the reason behind her contentment has been the decision to bring in 2006 Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo as her coach.

"I met along this tough path some amazing people, and I am so pleased I have been able to have them on my side," Bartoli added.

"She (Mauresmo) is helping me with the way I need to deal with my stress and energy off court.

"Sometimes I was losing too many energy being too focused for too long, especially a lot of times before matches. When I was going on court I was already tired.

"So she's really helping me to cool down when I'm off court.

"We have some great fun. Everything is perfect again."

Bartoli's father will also be in her corner tomorrow.

"That's vital for me," Bartoli said. "He is a part of me, he taught me everything on the tennis court, therefore it's to be expected that I share the greatest moments of my career with him.

"It's inconceivable for me that he wouldn't be there."

Another person Bartoli hopes might turn up is American movie actor Ryan Gosling. Bartoli famously said on her run to the final six years ago that she was stunned and inspired when spotting former James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan in the Royal Box while she was playing her semi-final against Justine Henin.

But it appears that Bartoli is not as big a fan of the current 007, Daniel Craig.

"Does Daniel Craig do it for me..?" she pondered before adding: "Ryan Gosling maybe."

Bartoli's extrovert character - she regularly shuffles, jumps, shrieks and skips between points - has made her a popular figure on the tour, but tomorrow she will not be the fans' favourite.

Lisicki wowed the crowd on her way to beating Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska, while she also collected the scalps of Samantha Stosur and Francesca Schiavone over the last two weeks.

The German collapsed to the floor in glee at making her dream of reaching the final come true yesterday, but there was a cold response from Radwanska, who offered her the weakest of handshakes at the net.

That will not stop Lisicki from enjoying an emotional celebration if she wins tomorrow though.

Lisicki said: "Well, that's just me. I enjoy myself out there. Why shouldn't I show it? I'm an emotional person.

"It helps me to stay relaxed, enjoy the game, and play my best tennis.

"I won't change anything."

While Bartoli has experience of a Wimbledon final, losing to Venus Williams in 2007, Lisicki is entering new territory.

She is Germany's first women's singles finalist since Steffi Graf lost to Lindsay Davenport in 1999, and said: "It's been a lot of fun. It's been a great journey. It hasn't finished yet.

"I think I'm really ready."

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