The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

July 6, 2013

Bartoli beats Lisicki to don Wimbledon crown


Associated Press

— LONDON (AP) — One of the strangest Wimbledons produced one of its quirkiest champions in Marion Bartoli, the winner of a mistake-filled final that left the overwhelmed runner-up in near tears during the match.

Bartoli, whose power game bothered Sabine Lisicki as much as any of her notable eccentricities, won 6-1, 6-4 Saturday to capture her first Grand Slam title in her 47th appearance at a major.

"I dreamed about this moment for so long," Bartoli said during her on-court interview.

She addressed Lisicki, who was shaking and in tears when she received the runner-up trophy.

"I was there in 2007 and I missed it," said Bartoli, the runner-up to Venus Williams that year. "I know how it feels, Sabine, and I'm sure you will be there one more time. I have no doubt about it."

Indeed, the 15th-seeded Bartoli played the part of the experienced veteran. After losing serve with a pair of double-faults in the first game, she ticked off 11 of the next 12.

The 23rd-seeded Lisicki was trailing 5-1, 40-15 in the second set, then came up with a rally from out of nowhere — unexpected considering she was almost weeping on the court minutes earlier.

"I was just overwhelmed by the whole situation, but credit to Marion," Lisicki said. "She's been in this situation before and handled it well."

Lisicki saved three match points and then pulled within 5-4.

But after a tense changeover, Bartoli served the match out at love, dropping to her knees after hitting an ace on match point, then climbing the wall into the players box to celebrate with 2006 Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo — the last Frenchwoman to win a Grand Slam title — and her friends and family.

"Maybe a backhand winner but just not an ace," Bartoli said when asked how she imagined she might close her first Wimbledon title. "I've been practicing my serve for so long. At least I saved it for the best moment."

A memorable day for her wasn't such a beauty for tennis. The players' 39 unforced errors included 11 double-faults. They combined for only 36 winners.

This was Bartoli's first tournament title of any sort since 2011 and, at 28 years, 9 months, she became the fifth-oldest first-time Grand Slam winner in the Open era. Before Bartoli, Jana Novotna had taken the longest road to her first Grand Slam title, winning Wimbledon in 1998, her 45th start at a major.

Wimbledon's newest champion is awkward — with a jumping, twitching, fidgeting routine before each point, a service motion that includes no bouncing of the ball and a windup that begins with crossed wrists before she uncoils by arching her back, stretching her unbent arm behind her head, then tossing the ball. She hits two-handed groundstrokes from each side, pumps her fist after almost every point.

Whatever it is, it works. She punished those groundstrokes, had no problem with Lisicki's serve, which reached as high as 115 mph, and undercut the notion that only Serena Williams can play the power game in women's tennis.

It was Lisicki who knocked Williams out of this tournament in the fourth round, and had the big serve and big groundstrokes to keep going to her first career Grand Slam final.

What an unexpected final it was.

By the time Lisicki had ousted Williams, the Wimbledon draw had already been shaken and stirred.

No. 3 Maria Sharapova lost in the second round. No. 2 Victoria Azarenka withdrew two days after being injured while slipping on Court 1 during her first-round match. Petra Kvitova, Li Na and all the other former Grand Slam titleholders made their exits and the final top-10 seed departed when Lisicki beat No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska in the semifinals.

And so, Bartoli became the first woman to win Wimbledon without facing a top-10 seed. As a result, she'll move to No. 7 in the rankings when the new list comes out Monday.

Lisicki, meanwhile, learned a lot in this one.

Under the bright sunshine and the glare of Centre Court, she lost complete control of her serve, her game and her emotions.

After hitting her second serve into the bottom of the net while serving down 3-1 in the second set, she could be seen stifling tears as the pressure of her first Grand Slam final caught up with her. She did the same during the changeover, gesturing at her coaches before briefly draping a towel over her head.

Only then did she gather a bit of composure, staving off the three match points and briefly making a match of it.

"I still love this tournament so much, I still love this court so much," Lisicki said.

Despite the loss, she'll make about $1.2 million — not bad for a player with career earnings of $2.8 million and three titles to this point.

Bartoli gets a $2.4 million winner's share and caps a lifelong quest.

"Maybe all the candles I've burned have helped me," she said. "It's been my dream since I was 6 years old."