Way back in the day when I lived in Jamaica, there was a programme that aired on the local tv station called Wild World of Sports. One of the highlights of that show was the narrator talking about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. They also spoke about the triumph of the human spirit in a sporting environment.
I am not the most athletic person, but when I was younger, I played netball, I swam, I played hockey and I did track and field. As I got older I took up tennis but as with most things when you get to an old age, your body starts to fail you and you can no longer continue.
I enjoy watching tennis, especially women’s tennis. The characters and personalities in tennis are all divisive in their own way and they make for absolutely great story lines. I strongly believe that one of the reasons why there are so many tennis blogs out there competing for the average tennis fans’ attention is because there are so many wonderful athletes who are out there competing day in and day out. They all have their little quirks that they do before each point and most people would be able to pick tennis players out of a line up if all you had to do was tell someone exactly what said person was doing, or indeed if all you had to go by was a short snapshot of what each player did between points. There is the Federer hair toss, the Serena Williams glare, the Azarenka/Wozniacki jumping up and down, the Sharapova/Hantuchova walk to the back of the court to commune. The list goes on and on.
However, there is one person whose foibles are cast in stone. From the jumping up and down prior to receiving serve, to the wave of her whole body to and fro prior to receiving serve, to the constant fist pumps to her box, the focus and intensity on every single point, I don’t think there is anyone in tennis who has as many quirks and foibles as does Bartoli.
I have never been a fan of the French woman. I think sometimes her quirks border on unsportsmanlike conduct. I think she goes over and beyond in her competitiveness and this sometimes irks me. However, one thing I have to do is give her credit. Credit for doing what is/was right to move her career forward and to realise her potential and credit to actually having the guts to do something that she should have done a long time ago.
Last year when Bartoli was unable to compete for France at the Olympics, I was one of the few that sided with the French Federation. All Federations have rules and everyone, no matter who you are, have to abide by those rules. For the FFT, the rule was that you could not be coached by your personal coach when you played Fed Cup. Bartoli and her father refused for many years to abide by these rules and as a result her dream of representing France at last year’s Olympic was not realised.
Fast forward to 2013 and Marion parted ways with her father/coach. I cannot imagine that it was an easy decision for her. Once she had parted ways with him she struggled to find form. She did not make it past the second round of any tournament at which she played. Her game suffered. The double faults, something which has always plagued her. intensified. When she got to Wimbledon, no one, and I mean no one picked her to even make the second round, much more the second seek.
As she stated, when she started the tournaemtn at Court 14, she had no idea that she would have been the last woman standing. Bartoli, as so many late bloomers have done since Schiavone at the French Open in 2010, seized her moment and never let go.
Bartoli had been down this road before. In 2007 she faced down then No. 1 Justine Henin and pipped her at the finish line in a wonderful display of grass court tennis. She failed to make a dent in the game of the Legend that is Venus Williams, but she showed true grit nonetheless.
It took her 6 years to make her way back to Centre Court. 6 years during which time she has not fared particularly well at the Slams, with her best showing being a semi-final finish at the French Open in 2011.
I hope that Marion’s win at Wimbledon will show the other women on Tour, who have the game, but not the mentality to do what is right in their careers. Caroline Woznaicki reigned for 2 years as the No.1 player in the world. She has indicated on more than one occassion that she is severing coaching ties with her father but as at the time of writing that coaching situation remains the same.
Marion Bartoli has shown that once you have the guts to do what is necessary to advance your career, you will achieve greatness.
Marion Bartoli, Wimbledon Ladies Champion 2013