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Bartoli’s unusual methods pay off at Wimbledon

July 7, 2013

LONDON (AP) — When she was in middle school, Marion Bartoli would do homework in the car while her father, who was also her coach, drove for hours from their home in central France to various junior tennis tournaments.

During the week, when Dad would finish his day job as a doctor, they would head out for a couple of hours of practice, sometimes starting at 9 or 10 p.m.

“Then coming back home and waking myself up in the morning to go to school — and do it over and over again,” Bartoli said. “So that made me the person I am right now on the court. It’s coming all from there.”

Today, at 28, Bartoli is a Wimbledon champion.

And when the 15th-seeded Bartoli’s 6-1, 6-4 victory over No. 23 Sabine Lisicki in Saturday’s final at the All England Club ended with an ace, she climbed up into the stands and gave her father a hug.

“To share this moment with my dad was absolutely amazing,” Bartoli said, “and I’m so proud of it.”

Speaking to reporters after the match, Walter Bartoli acknowledged he was tough on his daughter.

“When she was a little girl, on Sundays, she wanted to eat cookies, but I kept telling her that if she wanted to win Wimbledon one day, she had to play two more points before lunch,” he said. “And as long as she did not win those two extra points, she was not allowed to eat cookies. She was 13 or 14, but I’m sure it had an effect on her.”

He was never a tennis player himself; chess was his favored pastime.

But from when little Marion was about 6, he was determined to figure out how to make her a success.

When she was 7½, she watched on television as Monica Seles beat Steffi Graf to win the 1992 French Open. Fascinated by Seles’ two-handed grips for forehands and backhands, Bartoli decided she would play the same way.

Her father liked the idea because, as he put it Saturday, “her forehand was too weak.”

“I told her to try with both hands and, after just a couple of hours of practice, it was better. So we decided to keep working on it this way,” he added. “The fact that she plays with two hands on both sides gives her a big advantage, because she can hit the ball earlier. That’s the key.”

There were times that other coaches urged her to change to a more traditional forehand.

Didn’t happen.

“They tried to switch me back to a one-handed forehand,” she said, laughing at the recollection. “And when they saw my one-handed forehanded, they were like, ‘OK, that’s fine. Just stick with your (two-handed shots). Fine.’”

Took a while, but Bartoli — and her father — finally can say they knew what they were doing the whole time.

“She deserves it. She’s been on tour for so long. I’m happy for her,” Lisicki said. “I’m disappointed, but I’m happy for her, as well.”

Wimbledon was Bartoli’s 47th Grand Slam tournament, the most entered by a woman before earning her first major title. She actually reached a Slam final back in 2007, but lost to Venus Williams in straight sets.

The two-fisted shots are not the only quirks for Bartoli, who will rise to No. 7 in the WTA rankings Monday, equaling her career high.

There’s the way she crosses her arms before serving, never bouncing the ball before a toss.

The way she’ll stand well inside the baseline to receive an opponent’s serve.

The way she hops in place or takes practice swings between points.

“I never felt,” she said, “like I wanted to be like all the other (kids) and do exactly the same everyone was doing.”

And not all the other kids had the same social plans Bartoli did for Sunday night: attending the All England Club champions’ dinner.


Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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