PostHeaderIcon My New Appreciation and Respect for Marion Bartoli! (AUDIO & VIDEO)

Marion, Marion, Marion…
I had no idea at the start of this week that by tournament’s end I would find myself so enamored by your refreshing ways.

Like many, my first knowledge of Marion Bartoli was via television as she beat Justine Henin on her way to the 2007 Wimbledon finals (and a loss) against Venus Williams.  Her game seemed a bit odd as were the reports of her coach/father’s eccentric training methods. Taping tennis balls to her heels and all other kinds of contraptions…  The proof in the pudding though, and there it was.  Her defeat of Justine was a strong statement about her arrival in the game’s top level.  It took a bit afterward to consolidate her position, but there’s no denying her top 10 credentials now.

My tour of duty as a media reporter at the Bank of the West began by stumbling upon Marion and her father during a practice on the West Campus tennis courts at Stanford. It was the Saturday before the start of the tourney and I watched for quite a bit as her father put her through her paces in backhand drills. I remarked at that time how encouraging  and positive he was to her throughout the drill.  Yes, he may have some of the most unorthodox training methods that the WTA has ever seen.  But at its’ core is a very genuine concern for his daughter’s welfare.

Marion’s path to the final at Stanford turned out to be surprisingly easy.  A first round match win over Rebecca Marino was followed by a 6-1 RET. win over Ayuma Morita, then a semifinal walkover against Dominika Cibulkova.  3 sets of tennis to reach the final.  I initially thought this was going to hurt her in the final against Serena.  Serena had gained a tremendous amount of sharpness in her game from the the increasing level of competition as she proceeded through the draw.  Marion hadn’t had that same sharpening, though she did have plenty of time to rest and prepare.

When it came time to play for the title, she pulled out all stops against Serena. But it was not enough as Serena prevailed 7-5 6-1 in a hard-fought match.  A hand injury took partial credit for Marion’s demise in the final after initially being up 4-2.  That’s understandable though.  It’s tough to beat Serena at full strength, so it’s nearly impossible to beat her at less than that.

After the loss, Marion came into the press room and couldn’t have been more gracious, open, honest, and pleasant in defeat.  She gave full credit to Serena in spite of her obvious difficulties with the hand injury and subsequent drop in level of play.  She was forthright, sometimes funny, and gave very full answers to the questions posed.  In this audio clip she is first asked about whether or not Serena should receive a special seeding at the US Open (as happened at Wimbledon) and then asked about her serving.  When you hear her talk about her serve being “special”, add in air quotes for the full effect (scroll down for the video).

Marion_FINAL_press_conference

Marion’s press conference stood out in sharp contrast to Maria’s after her quarterfinal victory.  Whereas Maria came into the media room fairly sullen and very introspective, Marion was fairly happy and upbeat in spite of the loss and her injury.  There’s lots to like about that kind of spirit! I wanted to ask a question in reference to who she thought served harder, Serena or Venus, because after the Wimbledon final her wrist were hurting her from the onslaught of Venus’ serves. I didn’t want to literally add insult to injury, so I didn’t. She was feeling pretty good about her performance, so I’ll just save that one for another time.

Since those moments in the spotlight after her Wimbledon final, Marion has worked hard on her game, her fitness, and her mental toughness.  And when you look at her physique, her movement, and her ability to play tough on every point throughout a match, it shows.  She could, of course, be fitter and better able to play with quick turnarounds — as her results at the French Open and Wimbledon showed.  In each of those slam losses she hit the proverbial wall with her fitness late in the tournament.  If she can overcome those physical lapses, she has a good shot at another slam final.

And when she does, I might just be rooting for her. 🙂

 

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