Legends’ Voice – Marion Bartoli: “I say to myself ‘This is the game of your life'”

So I had to wait six years to realize my dream. However, in 2013, before Wimbledon, I was completely lost. We must be honest, it is useless to tell stories. I’ve always been honest about it all, when it went wrong. In 2013, I had nothing left in me. For a player like me, with a very demanding game in terms of energy and liveliness, it was complicated. I had trouble getting up in the morning to go to practice. I was no longer having fun. I tried to find solutions, other coaches, other physical trainers, but nothing worked.

There, Amélie (Mauresmo) comes to give me a hand. The Fed Cup does me good too, I win a decisive match which proves to me that I am still capable of winning important matches. But I arrive at Wimbledon without any specific ambition, perhaps for the first time in my career. I just wanted to give it my all, because I felt it was probably one of my last Wimbledons. And then one game, two games, three games. I’m starting to feel that, like in 2007, everything is coming together nicely. When I’m in an annexed end of set, I always manage. Everything turns on my side. You feel the machine starting up again.

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Marion Bartoli alongside Andy Murray: the two winners of Wimbledon in 2013.

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As a bonus, I see all the seeds in my part of the table starting to fall one after another. So I play girls who cut those heads off, but they’re lower ranked than me, so I have more confidence. Girls don’t usually beat me. Again, the planets are aligned and deep inside, I’m starting to tell myself that this is my chance, that I can’t miss it. This second chance that I’ve been waiting for for six years.

I feel sharper too, more lively. I do good workouts. The Fed Cup physio is also there to help me, he relieves my shoulder. These unbearable pains that I had disappeared as if by a miracle. Adrenaline helps mask them, too. So you enter a virtuous circle again, in this spiral where you tell yourself ‘Now is the time’. I had this joie de vivre again, I was going to train being happy.

For my second final, I face Sabine Lisicki, who had beaten me two years earlier in the quarter-finals. But I already have experience of a final at Wimbledon. She, no. Before entering Center Court, you are in this small antechamber. There, I meet his gaze and I see myself in his eyes six years earlier, petrified with stress. I tell myself ‘this is going to be my match, I’m not going to lose this final’. If I had played Radwanska, against whom I had always lost, I might have been in a different state of mind. But Lisicki caps her on the post at the end. Another small sign of fate. It was also Lisicki who released Serena that year. If I had to play Serena, it wouldn’t have been the same…

On the court, during the final, Amélie is there. Every time I look at her, I feel a lot of benevolence in her. There is also my dad who is there for this final. In short, I feel a lot of inner peace. In 2007, I spent my time telling myself “I have to get there, I have to get there”. There, I just think of unrolling my tennis. I was in a different state of mind.

I lead 6-1, 5-1 15-40. She’s completely lost, I didn’t miss a shot. At that moment, I say to myself ‘It’s good, I won Wimb”. And there… Of course, every second ahead that I had until then becomes a second behind, because my shoes are glued to the ground. My footwork stops. I return less well, she gives me a winning forehand, then a topspin volley and it’s 5-2. When I serve for the match, I miss the target by 20 centimeters and it can return more easily. Everything is reversed. 5-3. The next game, I don’t even try to occupy myself. I’m already focusing on my next service game at 5-4.

There, I see myself very well sitting on my chair at the change of side. I say to myself: ‘Well, it’s very simple, with the dynamic it has, if it’s 5-5, you lose this final. It’s the game of your life. Everything you have put in place for more than 20 years is now or never.’ I had a minute to do some sort of mental self-coaching and get back into it.

You can see it in the pictures, when I get up, I am, I do buttocks squeezes. I go there conquering, not with fear in my stomach. I think I end on a game at 40-0. I take out four first balls and end with an ace. The most beautiful ace of my life. I was both aware of what was at stake, so above all not denying it, but also the certainty of not missing out. Yes, I crashed at 5-2, but I wouldn’t crash at 5-4.

Two years earlier, I hadn’t won the tournament but I had had a great time beating Serena Williams in the round of 16. I think it’s one of the best games of my career. When I watch the video of this match, I feel like I’m flying on the pitch. I made 16 aces which, by my usual stats, was extremely high. It’s in the top 3 life matches. See the best. Then beat Serena in a Grand Slam, on grass, not many have done that. Tennistically, it was an apotheosis. It showed me that I still had some qualities and that I was not totally under-gifted (laughs).

It was special, because I had a colossal respect for her, admiration for the champion, affection for the character because I loved what she did. I was playing against the greatest player in history. But for two hours, you have to put all that aside. I never felt against another player what I felt against her. That is to say, facing Serena, it didn’t depend on me at all. Whatever I do. Except maybe in that match at Wimbledon where I was hitting so hard, taking so many risks, sticking my aces 175-180 mph down the line. Maybe that day, it was just a little bit up to me. And again, it was very tight, it is played for nothing on the tie-break of the second set. If she takes that second round, she wins in three. It remains a wonderful memory.

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