Sunday, January 21, 2018
Sports

Bartoli wins Wimbledon women's title

LONDON — Since she was a kid, practicing until midnight with her father, Marion Bartoli has played tennis her way.

Two-handed strokes for backhands, forehands, even volleys. Hopping in place and practicing swings between points, which help her focus. An unusual setup for serves: no ball-bouncing, arms crossed, right wrist resting on her left thumb before the toss.

Whatever works, right? The ambidextrous Bartoli, seeded 15th, won her first Grand Slam title by beating 23rd seed Sabine Lisicki 6-1, 6-4 Saturday in an error-filled, one-sided Wimbledon final.

"It's always been a part of my personality to be different. I think being just like the other one is kind of boring," said Bartoli, 28, who plays tennis right-handed and signs autographs with her left.

This was her 47th Grand Slam tournament, the most played by a woman before winning a championship. She is the only woman in the 45-year Open era to win Wimbledon playing two-fisted shots off both wings. (Monica Seles, Bartoli's inspiration for that style, collected her nine major titles elsewhere.)

Until Saturday it had been more than 1½ years since the Frenchwoman had won a tournament at any level. Until Wimbledon, her 2013 record was 14-12, and she had failed to make it past the quarterfinals anywhere.

Asked to explain how she went from a mediocre season to winning seven matches in a row at Wimbledon, never dropping a set, Bartoli briefly closed her eyes, then laughed heartily. "Well," she said, spreading her arms wide, "that's me!"

Bartoli, who lost the 2007 final to Venus Williams, became the first woman in the Open era to win Wimbledon without facing a top-10 seed, in part because of all of the injuries and surprising exits, including by No. 2 Victoria Azarenka and No. 3 Maria Sharapova by the end of the second round. Bartoli's highest-rated opponent was No. 17 Sloane Stephens of the United States in the quarterfinals.

Lisicki, meanwhile, used her game built for grass — fast serves, stinging returns, superb court coverage — to end defending champion and top-seeded Serena Williams' 34-match winning streak in the fourth round. She also eliminated past major champions Francesca Schiavone and Tampa resident Sam Stosur, and No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska, last year's runnerup.

But Lisicki, a 23-year-old German who trains at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, was a different player in the final. The first-time major finalist said she was overwhelmed by the occasion — even things as little as walking downstairs from the locker room to Centre Court and the final-afternoon ritual of players carrying bouquets of flowers when they enter the arena — and was frequently reduced to tears in the second set.

"Everything is a little bit different. You've been here for two weeks; the feeling, atmosphere, gets different," she said. "I felt fine (Saturday) morning, but it's an occasion that you don't get every day. … But I will learn and take away so much from it."

The match was not exactly the greatest theater or a "How To" guide for young players. Bartoli and Lisicki combined for more unforced errors, 39, than winners, 36. They finished with 11 double faults and eight aces.

Bartoli served out the match at love with a 101 mph ace that hit a line and sent chalk dust spraying.

"You cannot put (into) any words what I feel in this moment," she said. "I can't believe I won Wimbledon this year. We'll have to see the pictures, to see the match again on DVD to … realize it."

 
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