x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Wimbledon: Marion Bartoli is back in the groove again

Frenchwoman still retains her ferocious competitive spirit but has learnt to destress herself on court with some timely outside help.

France's Marion Bartoli laughs as she trains on the practice courts at Wimbledon on Friday. She faces Sabine Lisicki in the women's final on Saturday.
France's Marion Bartoli laughs as she trains on the practice courts at Wimbledon on Friday. She faces Sabine Lisicki in the women's final on Saturday.

Frenchwoman still retains her ferocious competitive spirit but has learnt to destress herself on court with some timely outside help

Marion Bartoli concedes her run to the Wimbledon final has put a smile back on her face just months after hitting rock-bottom when she sacked her father from his role as her coach.

Bartoli has played some of the best tennis of her life over the last two weeks at the All England Club as she swept into Saturday's final against Germany's Sabine Lisicki without dropping a set in her six matches.

The French 15th seed, a Wimbledon runner-up in 2007, is relishing her return to the spotlight so soon after a dark period when she struggled with the emotional decision to move on from her dad, Walter, who had coached her since childhood.

Bartoli found it hard to strike up a rapport with a succession of replacement coaches, working for three matches with Jana Novotna and Iwona Kuczynska before being tutored by Gerald Bremond who resigned after two weeks.

"There were some things off the court, it's pretty much private, but it kind of affected my mood and my results because it was tough to deal with," Bartoli said.

"I had some very low moments when I felt I pretty much hit rock bottom. But I kept my head up and I just wanted to win some matches and have some good memories on the court again.

"I believe what does not kill you makes you stronger and I just was able to come back stronger. Now I'm just so happy again and so smily."

Bartoli has always played with remarkable enthusiasm and intensity, but she concedes that attitude sometimes worked against her, making her unable to switch off away from the court and mentally drained before matches had even started.

She finally appears to have found a way to harness that energy after hiring 2006 Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo.

Mauresmo has brought a calmer approach to Bartoli's preparations, to the extent that the 28-year-old Frenchwoman was even willing to sleep up to 30 minutes before her semi-final win over Kirsten Flipkens on Thursday.

"She's helping me with the way I need to deal with my stress and with my energy out of the court," Bartoli said.

"Sometimes I was losing too much energy being too focused for too long, especially a lot of times before the matches.

"I felt when I was going on court, I was already tired from it.

"So she's really helping me to just cool down when I'm off the court, have some great time, have some fun, and just be really focused maybe 15-20 minutes before going on court and not like a day before or whatever."

Guy Forget, France's former Davis Cup captain, believes Bartoli's ferocious competitive spirit is comparable to two-time Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal.

"She's a prodigious force. She reminds me of Rafael Nadal in that she always sees the glass as half-full not half-empty. You sense that she is never plagued by doubt," said Forget.

Bartoli is seen by some as an unlikely Wimbledon finalist given her lack of success this year, but she issued a sharp rebuke to those critics.

"I won six matches and I didn't lose a set, so I think the facts speak by themself," she said.

While Lisicki will be playing in her first grand slam final, Bartoli knows all about the unique pressures of playing for the title.

Bartoli hopes that extra experience works in her favour, saying: "Of course having the experience of being out there already, especially on the same court, the same stage, will all definitely help.

"But I know I will have to play the perfect match to win. It will be a battle of nerves."

 

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