Bartoli overwhelms at Wimbledon
LONDON -- Sabine Lisicki looked hopelessly toward her friends and family and began to lose it.
Marion Bartoli had just broken her serve for a fifth time in the Wimbledon final to take a 6-1, 4-1 lead, and on the BBC telecast, John McEnroe, who has had his share of memorable comments on Centre Court, uttered still another.
"There's no place Sabine Lisicki would rather have been an hour ago," McEnroe said as the dismayed German, in her first Grand Slam, final looked on the verge of tears. "And now, she'd rather be anywhere else."
Lisicki was as vulnerable as her opponent was indomitable Saturday, with Bartoli closing it out it out five games later after a brief flutter of life from her stage-struck 23-year-old opponent, who fought off three championship points before succumbing 6-1, 6-4.
The No. 15 seed, Bartoli had a fortuitous draw, never played anyone seeded higher than 20-year-old American Sloane Stephens at No. 17, and in the process became the first women's Grand Slam winner to take the title without facing a top-15 seed in 37 years.
But there would be no apologies from a player who won her first career Grand Slam title on her second try after losing to Venus Williams here in 2007.
A grinder with hard, flat strokes exploding from a two-handed grip on both sides, Bartoli, 28, referred to moments so low in her life she could not repeat them, and did speak of the anguish of firing her father, Walter, as coach, a man who left his medical practice to guide her career.
The final point was an ace, ironic both for a player known more for her service return, and against an opponent with one of the biggest serves in the game.
"To finish on an ace to win Wimbledon, and you saw the chalk come out of the line -- I mean, I could have seen it in slow motion," Bartoli said. "I could see the ball landing, the chalk come out, it's an ace and I just won Wimbledon.
"You can't describe that kind of feeling. You cannot put any words what I feel in this moment. I can't believe I won Wimbledon this year. We'll have to see the pictures, to see the match again on DVD to kind of starting to realize it."
Shortly after match point, Bartoli broke into her familiar sprint off court, this time recreating former champion Pat Cash's climb up and over the broadcast booth, through the stands and into the family box, where she hugged adviser and former champion Amelie Mauresmo, members of the French federation, family members and finally her father.
"For a tennis player, you start to play like at 5 or 6 years old and when you decide to turn pro, your dream is to win a Grand Slam," Bartoli said. "You dream about it every single day. You think about it every single day. So when it actually happens, you achieve something that you dream about for maybe a million hours, went through pain, you went through tears, went through low moments, and actually it happened.
"Those five, 10 seconds before you shake the hands of your opponent, you felt like you're almost not walking any more on earth. You're really flying. It's really hard to describe how it felt. So to share this moment with my dad. ... Even in my perfect dream I couldn't have dreamed a perfect moment like that. That is beyond perfection."
Bartoli, who did not drop a set in seven matches, was as confident and sure in her play as her opponent was shaky, reeling off six straight games after being broken in the first game of the match, an impressive 68 percent first service percentage, and just four unforced errors to 14 for Lisicki.
Lisicki, the No. 23 seed but the oddsmakers' favorite after knocking off five-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams, had endeared herself to Wimbledon fans with her ever-present smile, and did so again with her tears upon accepting the runner-up trophy.
"I think I was just overwhelmed by this whole situation, but credit Marion," said Lisicki, who had received good-luck texts from seven-time Wimbledon champion Steffi Graf, the last German to reach the final here in 1999. "She has been in this situation before and handled it well and she deserves it.
"I hope I get the chance one more time."
Bartoli assured her that she would, in a gracious show of sportsmanship that had eluded semifinalist and 2012 runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska on Thursday, when she all but snubbed Lisicki at the net.
Bartoli's game was an anomaly here, much like her rebellious personality, in which she takes pride. This is a woman who on one hand is so relaxed she could nap right up until her semifinal match, so focused that she said she played the second set Saturday with a quarter-sized blister that soaked her sock in blood, yet so headstrong that she was not asked to play in the 2012 Olympics after refusing to take part in the Fed Cup without her father as coach.
"Well, I believe to be a Grand Slam champion you have to be a bit different," she said.
Bartoli told the crowd this had been her dream since she was 6 years old, perhaps more so than when she entered the tournament two weeks ago having failed to reach the quarterfinals of any event since March, withdrawing from the two grass-court Wimbledon tuneups, one with an ankle injury and the other because of illness.
A former top-10 player, Bartoli has lost nine times to players out of the top 20 this year.
"When I started this campaign back on Court 14, if you told me I'd be in the final I would not believe you, so to hold this trophy is unthinkable," she said.
Clutching the Venus Rosewater dish, her ponytail drenched with sweat along with the rest of her on this 80 degree London afternoon, Bartoli walked through Wimbledon's private inner sanctum, greeting former champions that included Billie Jean King before emerging on a balcony overlooking the grounds, where the crowd applauded her again.
"I mean, I can't still realize I just won Wimbledon," she said. "I can't realize I'm a Wimbledon champion. It's just so overwhelming."