Without questions, this denouement to the ladies’ draw was not foreseen as the fortnight commenced. Regardless, Marion Bartoli and Sabine Lisicki found themselves contesting for the big prize at Wimbledon. Bartoli made the most of her second trip to the final at the All-England Club, crushing the German 6-1, 6-4 to lift her inaugural majors’ trophy.
In 2007, Bartoli, the 18th seed, surprised Justine Henin in the semifinals to reach her maiden major final. Bartoli went down to Venus Williams, the 23rd seed and outright favorite.
Lisicki, another 23rd seed, was pegged as the oddsmaker’s choice because of booming serve and powerful forehand despite making her debut in a major final. On this occasion, Bartoli did not intend to stick to the script.
With Maria Sharapova ousted in the second round, Victoria Azarenka forced to forfeit her second round match due to injury and 2011 winner Petra Kvitova bounced in the quarterfinals, Bartoli was the vestige of a bottom half of the draw left in disarray.
Not only did the Frenchwoman win all her matches in two sets, the highest seed she battled was Sloane Stephens at 17. Prior to this tournament, Bartoli’s showings this season were three quarterfinals, all non-majors.
Moreover, Bartoli’s last title was in Osaka in 2011. That same year, Bartoli prevailed on grass in Eastbourne, stunned Serena Williams at Wimbledon in the fourth round only to be bounced in the quarterfinals by the woman she faced today.
The anxiety was palpable as each competitor double faulted on break point her first time serving. However, with her first ace, Bartoli subsequently held for a 2-1 lead.
With Lisicki’s first serve and forehand off target, Bartoli broke in the fourth game and consolidated for a 4-1 advantage. Later, with Lisicki misfiring from all angles, Bartoli captured a second break and closed out the opening set with a love hold.
The German called upon a timeout, retreating to the locker-room to regain her focus. Finally, Lisicki found her range on the serve and forehand to start the second set with her initial hold of the afternoon.
Lisicki was hoping to tap into the resilience which pushed her to dismissing five time Wimbledon winner and defending champion Serena Williams in the fourth round after being down 0-3 in the deciding set and helped her pull the same stunt in the semifinals against 2012 finalist Agnieszka Radwanska. The first German to advance to the final since Steffi Graff in 1999 was hopeful as Bartoli punched a backhand wide to donate a break point.
But, as a result of a forehand error, Lisicki failed to capitalize. Three more break points were left unclaimed by the German allowing Bartoli to level the set.
Soon, with a double fault, Lisicki stared at triple break point. Bartoli converted with a forehand volley winner for 2-1.
In the fifth game, as the clock marked that one hour of play had elapsed, Lisicki committed another double fault to gift Bartoli break point. The German could no longer contain her emotions and her eyes welled up with tears. Despite getting to deuce, Bartoli eventually captured the game as the mistakes continued to flow from Lisicki.
Down 1-5, Lisicki displayed signs of life, salvaging three break points to hold. Then, Lisicki stole another game as Bartoli served for the championship. Lisicki maintained serve to tighten the screws at 4-5. But, too little, too late.
With a couple of well placed serves and a backhand winner, Bartoli arrived at 40-0. Promptly, with her second ace of the day, Bartoli captured the title.
In comparison to past champions, Bartoli’s celebration was muted as she revealed “honestly, I can’t believe it. . .I’ve dreamt about this moment since I was six years old. . .amazing feeling, amazing day. .I could retire tomorrow, I’ve achieve my goal”.
In 2007, Bartoli was the runner-up, thus, she understands what Lisicki is currently going through “I know how it feels. . .I have no doubt, with your game, you’ll be [in the final] more times”.
Bartoli was particularly proud of her serve, an aspect of her game she has tinkered with. It paid dividends today with an ace coming on championship point “I’ve been practicing my serve for so long. . .I saved it for the best moment”. Also, Bartoli cited that the key was “my return of serve which has always been my strength. . . [against a big sever like Sabine], I had to back up a little bit to return”.
Recently, Bartoli severed coaching ties with her father and is being aided by 2006 Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo, the French Federation Cup captain. It’s a different atmosphere Bartoli said “prior to the match I was cracking jokes and dancing with my team”.
Still, Bartoli acknowledged without her dad, the person who introduced her to the game as a youngster, she could not have gotten to this point “my dad who is here today means so much”, she warmly hugged him after her victory.
Lisicki admitted “I think I was overwhelmed by the whole situation. Marion deserves it. I hope I’ll get the chance one more time. I still love this tournament”. She was especially grateful to the spectators for “almost getting me back into this” and to her team who’s been there through “so much ups and downs”.
Bartoli becomes the maiden individual in the Open Era to prevail at Wimbledon without needing to square off against a top ten player. Moreover, Bartoli joins the ranks of Venus Williams and Sharapova as solely the third person in the Open Era outside the top ten to triumph at the All-England Club.
The girl who fashioned her game after 1992 Wimbledon finalist Monica Seles is the first competitor with two-hands on both wings to hoist the Wimbledon prize. Also, Bartoli joins the likes of Venus and Serena as the sixth player to conquer the event without surrendering a set.
On Monday, Bartoli will climb back to her career high ranking of number 7 while Lisicki will return to the top 20 at number 18.