Marion Bartoli dominated Sabine Lisicki from start to finish at Wimbledon to win France’s first major tennis championship in seven years.
Bartoli’s accuracy off the baseline and cross-court angles which frequently forced her opponent out of the court were no match for a nervous Lisicki. The 23-year-old, who was the tournament ace leader in the women’s draw, had her service broken five times.
“When I started this campaign, if you told me I would even be in the final, I wouldn’t have believed it,” Bartoli, 28, said at the trophy ceremony. “I can’t believe I’m holding this trophy: it’s been my dream since I was six.”
The runner-up up to Venus Williams in 2007, No. 15 Bartoli is the first woman to win the Wimbledon title in the Open era without facing a top-10 seeded opponent. The tournament double fault leader with 33, she finished off the match with only her 14th ace of the event. Lisicki produced 45 aces -- the most in the past two weeks -- and 10 alone in her fourth-round win against five-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams.
“Finishing with an ace to win Wimbledon, I couldn’t believe that,” Bartoli said after climbing to her box to embrace her family and friends as well as 2006 Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo, the French Federation Cup captain and one of her coaches. “Maybe a backhand winner, but not an ace.”
The victory comes after months of struggling with illness and injury. Bartoli, who this week said her body had been “cracking up all over the place,” earlier in the season, quit a tournament in Miami in March with a left-foot injury, and withdrew from Rome a month later with a right ankle ailment. Her ankle still bothered her during last month’s French Open, where she lost in the third round. On grass, she withdrew from an event in Birmingham, England, and won one match in Eastbourne before pulling out with a viral illness.
“She’s had to come back from injury a lot of times,” Walter Bartoli said shortly after his daughter’s win. “She has always been so determined to do her best. This morning at the breakfast table, she was quiet, but relaxed.”
Lisicki had the biggest upset of the tournament on her way to the final as she ousted French Open champion Williams of the U.S. With a game built around a booming serve of about 120 miles-per-hour (193 kilometers-per-hour) and powerful ground strokes, the right-hander has beaten the reigning French Open champion in four of the past five years at Wimbledon.
Her serve deserted her today against Bartoli as she hit six aces and five double faults, often at crucial moments. She made 25 unforced errors.
“I think it was just overwhelmed by the whole situation, but credit to Marion, she’s been in that situation before and she handled it really well,” Lisicki said as she fought back tears.
Both players had a nervous start, each getting broken on a double fault. Struggling to get a first serve in, Lisicki was broken for a second time as she netted a backhand to go down 3-1.
Despite initially leading 40-15, Lisicki dropped serve for a third time to trail 5-1 as Bartoli dominated the rallies and the German made several unforced errors. Bartoli easily served out the first set on yet another unforced error by Lisicki, who had 14 in the period compared to four by her opponent.
After 35 minutes of play, Lisicki finally held in the opening game of the second set as the crowd cheered loudly. She then squandered two opportunities to break with a pair of wayward ground strokes. Saving two more break points with powerful shots struck from inside the baseline aimed at her opponent’s feet, Bartoli held for 1-1.
Once again, Lisicki’s serve faltered as she faced three break points in the next game. A drop shot that was too short was punished as Bartoli took a 2-1 lead.
Serving at 3-1 down, Lisicki let her head drop after she produced two double faults in one game and failed to find an answer to Bartoli’s accurate ground strokes and cross-court shots that frequently took her out of the court.
Serving to stay in the championship, the crowd gave Lisicki another cheer. A forehand error handed Bartoli two match points, which Lisicki saved with a backhand volley and a service winner.
A third one followed, only for Bartoli to net a backhand. Lisicki shouted to herself in German as she held with a 115 miles-per-hour serve.
She kept momentum, breaking to move to 3-5. Playing more aggressively, she held and pumped her fist.
“They helped me get back my nerves,” Lisicki said of the crowd. “I got them back but Marion was too good.”
Still, Bartoli was serving for the match. She got her fourth match point with a cross-court shot and won with an ace, her 15th winner of the match. Lisicki had 21 winners.
“I dreamed about this moment for so long,” Bartoli said. “I was there in 2007 and missed it and know how it feels.”
Bartoli was introduced to tennis when she was six years old by her father, a doctor who has applied some of his medical knowledge to hone his daughter’s unusual technique. She has been working with Mauresmo at Wimbledon after her father coached her for most of her career.
An unorthodox player both on and off the court, Bartoli is the first double-handed woman to win Wimbledon since tennis turned professional in 1968. She’s modeled her technique on that of her idol Monica Seles, who won nine major singles titles hitting with both hands off both wings.
During practice sessions at nearby Aorangi Park at Wimbledon, Bartoli, who writes with her left hand, has frequently used elastic bands tied around on her ankles while hitting dozens of air shots in a row. During matches, she practices her ground strokes in between points, bounces up and down and fist pumps after nearly every shot won.
Bartoli’s victory comes after a tumultuous two weeks at Wimbledon, with the men’s and women’s draws losing half of the players in the top 10 -- including former champion Maria Sharapova of Russia and Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka of Belarus -- before the third round because of injuries and upsets.
The highest seed Bartoli faced on her way to her second Wimbledon final was No. 17 Sloane Stephens of the U.S. in the quarterfinals.
Lisicki was the first German woman playing for the Wimbledon title since Steffi Graf -- who won seven times on the London grass courts -- reached her last final in 1999, where she lost to Lindsay Davenport. Her win at Roland Garros in the same year remains the last major singles title for a German player.
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