Bartoli’s unusual methods pay off at Wimbledon

When she was in middle school, Marion Bartoli would do homework

in the car while her father, who was also her coach, drove the 100

or so miles 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 7 1/2, 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.

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