7:34 PM CDT, July 6, 2013
WIMBLEDON, England — There's nothing conventional about Marion Bartoli on a tennis court.
Her serve is anything but smooth. She pounds the ball with two hands from both sides, styled after Monica Seles. She can't stand still between points, jumping up and down and swinging her racket in a routine she has followed since childhood, when she practiced under the stern eye of her taskmaster father, Walter. She's stocky, not tall and lithe.
And if British radio commentator John Inverdale is to be believed, the 28-year-old Frenchwoman isn't conventionally pretty either. He asked BBC listeners Saturday if they thought Bartoli's father had told her she had to be scrappy and fight because "you're never going to be a looker."
There's a lot to be said for defying convention. Bartoli said it eloquently Saturday with a 6-1, 6-4 rout of Germany's Sabine Lisicki in the Wimbledon women's final, and she looked just fine on Centre Court as she held up the Venus Rosewater Dish, the winner's prize.
"Those five, 10 seconds before you shake the hands of your opponent you felt like you're almost not walking anymore on earth. You're really flying," said Bartoli, who lost the 2007 Wimbledon final to Venus Williams. "It's really hard to describe how it felt."
Walloping the ball from both sides and reacting quickly to Lisicki's powerful serve, the 15th-seeded player won her first Grand Slam championship in her 47th Grand Slam appearance. The woman who hadn't won a title since 2011 didn't lose a set in seven matches here. Unusual? "Well, that's me," Bartoli said, laughing.
Lisicki, seeded 23rd and nicknamed "Boom Boom" for her huge serve, showed steely nerves in completing three-set upsets of 2012 champion Serena Williams, 2011 U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur and 2012 Wimbledon runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska and reaching her first Grand Slam final.
Bartoli's path was easier, thanks to stunning early losses by No. 2 Victoria Azarenka, No. 3 Maria Sharapova and No. 8 Petra Kvitova, the 2011 Wimbledon winner. The highest seeds Bartoli faced were No. 17 Sloane Stephens of the U.S. in the quarterfinals and No. 20 Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium in the semifinals. Bartoli defeated each in straight sets.
Lisicki, so poised during her impressive run, was frequently driven to tears Saturday by Bartoli's dominance.
"The matches are different when you play against the top players. They're heavier. They're longer. You have more draining rallies," Lisicki said. "Mentally and physically I just felt I wasn't at 100%. But then again, I tried everything."
Lisicki broke Bartoli's serve in the first game of the first set but lost the next six games. The set was over in 29 minutes. The match seemed to be over, too, when Bartoli broke Lisicki's serve in the third and fifth games of the second set and held serve to take a 5-1 lead.
As Lisicki prepared to serve the next game, the crowd cheered as if trying to give her its energy. She drew on that, saving two match points to hold for 5-2. Two double faults by Bartoli helped Lisicki earn another break and Lisicki pulled within 5-4 on an excellent forehand winner.
"I went out there in the second set and nearly got it back to level," Lisicki said. "I think that is definitely something that will help me for the future."
Bartoli rose to the challenge. "I just really thought I had to hold my serve one more time," she said.
She did, winning the final game at love with a surreal ending.
"Just to finish on an ace to win Wimbledon, and you saw the chalk come out of the line," she said. "I mean, I could have seen it in slow motion. I could see the ball landing, the chalk come out, it's an ace, and I just win Wimbledon.
"You can't describe that kind of feeling. You cannot put any words what I feel in this moment."
After embracing Lisicki, she climbed into the stands to share her joy. She embraced her coach, 2006 Wimbledon winner Amelie Mauresmo, and her father, with whom she had parted acrimoniously when she decided she didn't want him to coach her anymore.
"That was the perfect day," she said. "It was sunny. It was beautiful. Centre Court Wimbledon, it was packed. I won in two sets. I didn't drop a set for the whole championship. Even in my perfect dream I couldn't have dreamed a perfect moment like that."
It was perfectly different. And perfectly beautiful.
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