Joy for Bartoli as Lisicki freezes on biggest stage

CINDERELLA STORY::After 47 Grand Slam appearances, Bartoli had her victory, easily dispatching Lisicki, who had entered the favorite after beating Williams and Radwanska

Reuters and AFP, LONDON

Mon, Jul 08, 2013 - Page 20

Marion Bartoli would not have been high on any list of likely Wimbledon champions two weeks ago, but on Saturday, the quirky Frenchwoman overwhelmed Sabine Lisicki 6-1, 6-4 to claim her first Grand Slam title.

The 28-year-old 15th seed, who blazed through the shock-laden tournament without dropping a set, faced only token resistance in the final as German Lisicki froze on the biggest occasion of her career.

Trailing 6-1, 5-1 Lisicki was struggling to hold back the tears, but after saving three match points, she finally freed her shoulders and briefly threatened an unlikely comeback, before Bartoli slammed the door shut, holding serve to love and finishing the match with an ace.

Bartoli became the first French player to win a Grand Slam title since Amelie Mauresmo, now her coach, in 2006, finally breaking her major trophy drought at the 47th attempt.

“As a small girl, I dreamed about this moment,” Bartoli said in a courtside interview after lifting the Venus Rosewater dish on a sun-drenched Centre Court. “Finishing with an ace to win Wimbledon, even in my wildest dreams I couldn’t have imagined that. “Honestly, I cannot believe it. I have practiced my serve for so long, at least I kept it for best moment.”

Lisicki, the 23rd seed, entered the match as the favorite, having beaten defending champion Serena Williams in the fourth round and last year’s runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska in an absorbing semi-final.

She broke Bartoli’s serve in the opening game of the match, but then began to unravel as the occasion got to her.

“You try to calm yourself down as much as you can with different techniques, breathing techniques that usually help, but didn’t help today,” Lisicki said.

Bartoli, runner-up to Venus Williams at the All England club in 2007, reeled off the next six games to win the first set in 31 minutes — many points being won without a fight as Lisicki’s error count mounted.

Lisicki’s booming serve never functioned smoothly and the astute Bartoli kept the ball away from the German’s dangerous forehand as she moved within one set of her first Grand Slam title.

Lisicki went for the now “obligatory” toilet break at the end of the first set and returned a little more composed, holding her serve in the opening game of the second set, but she wasted four break points on Bartoli’s first service game and was then broken to trail 2-1.

Struggling to hold back tears, Lisicki dropped her serve again and in a flash she was 1-5, 0-40 down on serve.

“There would have been no place Lisicki would rather have been an hour ago,” former men’s champion John McEnroe, commentating for the BBC, said. “Now it’s the last place she wants to be. Her mind’s all fogged up.”

The fog cleared briefly as Lisicki courageously saved three match points, then broke Bartoli to trail 3-5 and held confidently to finally apply some pressure on her opponent.

Bartoli, whose manic mannerisms and practice swings make her stand out from the crowd, regrouped and held serve to love, sealing her first Grand Slam title on her fourth match point after only 1 hour, 21 minutes.

As a crestfallen Lisicki sat in her chair, Bartoli clambered into the stands to embrace her entourage, which included father and former coach Walter and Mauresmo.

After Bartoli had paraded with the trophy, she walked off and put a consoling arm around the shoulder of her opponent.

“We’ve known each other for a while,” Lisicki said.

“She’s been on tour for so long. I’m happy for her. I’m disappointed, but I’m happy for her. I hope that I’ll get the chance to go one further one day, as well.”

Bartoli’s triumph after 47 Grand Slam appearances beats the previous record held by Czech Jana Novotna, who won Wimbledon in 1998 in her 45th major appearance.

Meanwhile, US twins Bob and Mike Bryan became the first men’s doubles team to hold all four Grand Slam titles in the Open era when they won Wimbledon for the third time on Saturday.

The top seeds beat Croatia’s Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo of Brazil 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

The brothers, taking part in their 25th Grand Slam final and who also won Wimbledon in 2006 and 2011, had also claimed gold at the Olympics last year.

They now have 15 men’s doubles titles at the Grand Slams and extended their winning streak to 24 matches.

“We’ve been working hard and taking care of our bodies. We’ve put the game in the right perspective in our life. When we lose, it’s not the end of the world,” Bob Bryan said. “He’s married; I have a family; I have a kid. We’re just playing for fun. We’ve done it all in the sport, and now we’re just out there taking swings and not living and dying with every win and loss.”

Mike Bryan said the brothers still have plenty of ambitions, including defending their Olympic title in 2016 in Brazil.

“Probably like to hit 100 titles. I think today was 91,” said Mike when asked to set out their future plans. “Then maybe try to finish No. 1 ten times. This year would be nine, if we did it. We got a pretty good lead. Then try to get to Rio and get another medal.”

Ken McGregor and Frank Sedgman are the only pair to have completed the calendar Grand Slam back in the pre-Open era of 1951.