x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Marion Bartoli's beauty and talent are all in the eye of the beholder

Contrary to a regretful comment made during the Wimbledon women's final, beauty does not translate into success on the tennis court.

Marion Bartoli, left, at the Wimbledon Championships 2013 Winners Ball on Sunday. Julian Finney / Getty Images
Marion Bartoli, left, at the Wimbledon Championships 2013 Winners Ball on Sunday. Julian Finney / Getty Images

John Inverdale, the BBC radio commentator, probably landed up at the wrong address on Saturday. It seems, he thought he was going to watch long-legged blonde-haired beauties present some swanky designer's summer collection. And lo! He found Marion Bartoli instead.

"Do you think Bartoli's dad told her when she was little: 'You're never going to be a looker. You'll never be a [Maria] Sharapova, you're never going to be 5ft 11, you're never going to be somebody with long legs, so you have to be scrappy and fight'?" Inverdale quipped after the Frenchwoman had vanquished the blonde Sabine Lisicki in winning the Wimbledon women's singles title.

A day later, Inverdale apologised for his "ham-fisted" comments. But seriously, what was the point he was trying to make? Being a long-legged looker is by itself enough to win grand slams? Sharapova's looks do not seem to count for a great deal when she is standing across the net from Serena Williams.

Anna Kournikova's beauty did not help her win any titles and the Russian could make just one semi-final in 21 grand slam appearances. Instead, she was No 1 on ESPN Classic's list of most overrated athletes and No 18 on ESPN's list of 25 biggest flops of the past 25 years.

Of course, Kournikova is still one of the most searched names on the internet, but that has nothing to do with her success in tennis. And a seasoned-journalist like Inverdale knows that. Unfortunately, the sports world is not free of sexism.

Lisicki is "The Laughing Girl from Germany", according to the British tabloids, while Bartoli is a "maverick". Remember the list of the 10 most beautiful women in tennis that the Australian Open drew up a few years back? Neither Williams sister featured in it.

True, Bartoli does not have the movie-star looks of Sharapova, but does the Russian have the IQ of Bartoli (175)? The Frenchwoman has plenty of other qualities that the world might appreciate.

"I felt I wanted to take her [Lisicki] in my arms at some point," Bartoli said after her one-sided 6-1, 6-4 win. "I felt so sorry for her – it was hard to see her like that. To cry on court during a Wimbledon final, you must feel so lonely."

How many other players would show such concern for their opponent? Bartoli had the perfect riposte for Inverdale as well.

"I invite this journalist to come and see me in a ball gown and heels and, in my opinion, I think he may change his mind," she told France's Le Parisien newspaper.

But changing the minds of people like Inverdale is not really the solution. We need a change of mentalities.


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