In 1992, Dr. Walter Bartoli witnessed Monica Seles defeat Steffi Graf at Roland Garros in one of the classic Major finals in women’s tennis history, 6-2 3-6 10-8. Dr. Bartoli had a tennis playing daughter named Marion who was having trouble with her forehand. Watching Monica win 3 straight Roland Garros titles, with 2 of those wins over Graf, convinced him to teach Marion how to play like Seles, ripping groundstrokes with two hands off BOTH sides. Futhermore, as Seles did, Marion uses her return of serve as an offensive shot. John McEnroe credits Monica Seles as being the one who changed the way the women’s game is played on return of serve. According to him, and I agree, she made it an aggressive shot. Fast forward to Wimbledon 2013 and all of the top power players attack on return of serve, including Bartoli. It was that service return that would be tested in the Ladies Singles final against arguably the second best server in women’s tennis, Sabine Lisicki. Marion passed the test with flying colors, dominating an overwhelmed Lisicki, 6-1 6-4, to accomplish something Seles never did, win Wimbledon. Chris Evert surmised that Marion might be the first player to win the Ladies Championship at Wimbledon using two hands off both sides. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of another.
Sabine Lisicki should hold her head high. I applaud what she accomplished at this Wimbledon. It hurts to lose in lopsided fashion now, but what a ride she took tennis fans on along the way. If you really love tennis, you understand that tournaments are about the entirety, not just the final. We all hope for scintillating, edge of your seat, momentum shifting, down to the wire type finals. But sometimes the best matches are played along the way, with the final being anti-climactic by comparison. It happens on both the men’s and women’s side. Just a few weeks ago at Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic played an epic 5 set semifinal, eventually won by Nadal 9-7 in the 5th. The final against David Ferrer didn’t match up to that epic standard. As I write this, we are one day removed from another classic 5 set semifinal between Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro, this time won by Nole. Whether the final against Andy Murray lives up to the Djokovic-del Potro semi remains to be seen. Such is the case with Sabine. She treated us to high level, suspenseful, down to the wire matches against defending champion and everybody’s pick to win, Serena Williams. A couple of rounds later she went to the mat again with the 4th seed, and last year’s runner up, Agnieszka Radwanska in another thriller, winning 9-7 in the final set. Because of this, I choose not to have any problems with her play against Bartoli. Would I have liked a better match? Sure, everybody would have. But that doesn’t erase the fact that the two best matches on the women’s side both included Sabine as a giant killer. Sabine admitted to being overwhelmed by the situation. I also think, as Chris Evert said, that she was also flat and out of gas. Those two matches drained her physically and mentally. And as Chrissie said while she was calling the match…when you don’t have it out there, you can’t fake it. Sabine didn’t have it today, because of nerves and an empty gas tank. Oh, but she gave tennis fans more than her fair share of excitement and brilliance this fortnight.
With the title, Marion becomes the third Frenchwoman to win the Wimbledon singles championship, along with coach Amelie Mauresmo and the legendary Suzanne Lenglen. Perhaps this is a lesson for the helicopter parents with professional sports playing children, particularly fathers and daughters. Chris Evert was coached by her father and speaks of how delicate and complex that can be as a relationship. It can be overbearing at times. Lines get crossed at times. Moreover, at a certain point the father sometimes has to let go and let his daughter grow into her own person. That is what has happened this year with Marion. Dr. Bartoli was so omnipresent (by some people’s accounts overtraining and overworking his daughter) that Marion was not able to represent France at the 2012 London Olympics because he would not step aside for the duration of time Bartoli would be on the French Tennis Federation team. I couldn’t believe it, passing up the chance to play in the Olympics because for a few weeks a compromise couldn’t be made. Finally, going into this year…too late for the 2012 Olympics unfortunately…Dr. Bartoli told Marion that it was time for her to develop on her own, that he had taken her as far as he could. Marion also wanted to move on and do things her own way. Particularly, she wanted to work with Mauresmo. Who suggested the break first, I don’t know. They say it was a mutual decision. Let me be very clear, he did a great job developing his daughter into a professional top-10 player. But he could have had that conversation and let go 4 or 5 years ago and maybe she might have had a different career. It wasn’t smooth early this year for Marion. Growing pains I imagine from at long last being able to be own her own, making her own decisions about her career and preparation. There is a line from Life of Pi that speaks of the whole of life being an act of letting go. By letting go, Marion and her father were finally able to seize the most prestigious trophy in women’s tennis. I realize a cynic might say the draw opened up for her. But still, you have to be prepared to take advantage of opportunity when it presents itself. She’s had semifinal and quarterfinal opportunities in Majors before that she didn’t capitalize on. Not this time. This time, the Venus Rosewater Dish was in her sights when top seeds started dropping. She didn’t drop a set. She took out the player who took out Serena and Aga. And no less than any other Wimbledon titleist, she deserves to be a champion.
|Women’s Singles – Finals – Completed|
|M. Bartoli #15 «||6||6|
|S. Lisicki #23||1||4|
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MARION & SABINE