Why We Watch: Marion Bartoli, Anxiety Triumphant

Marion Bartoli doesn't look or act much like a Wimbledon Champion. Which made her Wimbledon win that much more fun to watch.
Share |

The applause was flat when Marion Bartoli won Wimbledon. After her last ace dropped in, the peculiar little Frenchwoman hop-ran across the court, vaulted into the stands and clambered awkwardly into her family box, looking less like a world-class athlete than a short woman in a too-short skirt having trouble climbing over a wall. It was a clumsy celebration of what had mostly been a clumsy victory; with Bartoli’s opponent, the long-limbed power-hitter Sabine Lisicki, collapsed into her sideline chair, it seemed grace itself had been defeated. This maybe sounds sad, but it shouldn’t. The tyranny of elegance is ended. Marion Bartoli is a champion. Hail this.

The British crowd had been rooting for Lisicki, a charming young talent who beat Serena Williams, Agnieszka Radwanska, and Sam Stosur on her way to the final, a series of upsets that would have made clearer dramatic sense had her championship opponent been someone more fearsome than Marion. Either Lisicki ran out of gas, the moment got to her, or some other sporting cliché undid her serve, because she disappeared on Saturday afternoon. Bartoli, whose sturdy steadiness is maybe her most remarkable trait, was ready to step into history and claim her shiny Wimbledon plate-trophy.

By halfway through the second set—after an hour of punishment, and before her desperate, not-quite-good-enough comeback—Lisicki had started to cry. Her oversized eyes and cockeyed smile give her something of a Liza Minelli look, and her tears made her look as sympathetic and infuriating as Sally Bowles in Cabaret. On the other end of the court, something altogether more remarkable was happening: Bartoli was staging a one-woman Bad News Bears. That the tennis establishment won't celebrate her for it is proof that the tennis establishment really doesn't know how to have a good time, or at least doesn’t know a good ragtag-misfits-overcome-the-odds story when it sees one.

***

Talking about sports gets a lot more fun once we accept that watching athletes and understanding athletes are not the same thing. Quit pretending that the way a quarterback throws a football has something to do with his character, and the game becomes interesting again. Detach what you see on the screen from the physical reality of the sport, and you're left with perfect metaphor putty. If a double play means nothing, or nothing more than two outs recorded in rapid succession, then we can use it to mean anything. Sports are a slippery concept, and as anyone who spent part of this last muggy weekend at a waterpark knows, slipperiness can mean good clean fun, if handled with some care.

Tennis, delightfully, is one step farther from reality than your more easily projectable team sports. Not only does the ritualized, faintly stilted game itself tell us little about the people who play it—well, beyond that they’re good at tennis and favor fist-pumps as a celebratory move—we hardly ever get to watch the game. Most tennis tournaments happen far from the gaze of ESPN, and those that do—including the invisible Australian Open—are, between time zone troubles and baffling orders of play, impossible to schedule around. We know that tennis is happening out there somewhere, generally featuring the same superstars that keep fans rapt during Grand Slam season. But where it's happening, what channel it's on, and what, if anything, it might mean—that we can only fumble for. Watching Marion Bartoli thrash Sabine Lisicki in two sets isn't just the tip of the iceberg. It's like a drawing of the tip of the iceberg, scrawled out hurriedly by someone who can't really draw, and has in fact only read about icebergs—identifiable as a thing, but mostly strange.

So—what do we know about this first-time champion? She's French, born in the absurdly picturesque Le Puy-en-Velay. She's 28. She plays with both hands on the racquet, a strange style that gives her pinpoint control at the expense of power, range, and other desirable tennis stuff. She won the U.S. Open junior championship at 16, prompting her father to quit medicine in order to coach her full-time—that slightly twisted relationship was finally severed earlier this year—but aside from a 2007 appearance in the Wimbledon final, she has never made it beyond the semis of a major tournament. This is her bio, and it tells us very little about her, really.

To watch her play is to be reminded of how much is left out. Bartoli is a little tense, in the way that a Nimitz-class supercarrier is a little boat. Between points, while her opponent is trying to focus, Bartoli bounces, takes jerky little practice swings, and mutters to herself like a cartoon crazy person. In a sport that prefers its champions handsome and mute or godlike and untouchable, Bartoli is a hopping, amphetamized jitterbug. This has always made her something of a sideshow character, a talented fringe player whose manic antics make the early rounds of a tournament more interesting, before she finally yields to the goddesses.

She does not, although of course I don’t know, really appear to enjoy tennis. As a match wears on, her eyes get a crazy sparkle, and she curses at her racquet in a way that led my girfriend compare her to, "one of those girls you knew in middle school who wasn't unpopular because she was a nerd, but because she had a rage problem." This is very specific, but you understand what it means. Bartoli is going through some things out there.

That was my impression when I first noticed Bartoli, during her 2011 upset of Serena Williams at Wimbledon. I adore Serena because she is a scythe in a field of wispy, terrified, Eastern European wheat. She is an Olympian destroyer, vengeful and maybe a little petty and most impatient to get on with her work wreaking destruction on those foolish enough to challenge her. In 2011, Bartoli was one of those fools—one of several standing in the way of Williams' preordained comeback from a life-threatening embolism. Compared to Bartoli's churning fury, Serena looked smaller and played smaller; she went down in two sets. It was like watching a mosquito bite a tiger into submission. There is no way not to cheer on the mosquito.

***

On Saturday, ESPN's commentary team was ready for a Lisicki win. She is beautiful, speedy, powerful—a potential star even before she ended Serena’s lengthy winning streak in Wimbledon’s fourth round. And yet when it began to seem she had forgotten how to play the game, they excused her frustration, worried about her serve, and praised her for taking a restorative bathroom break (they really did this) after the disastrous first set. Only towards the end did they take notice of the woman who was winning, nodding at Bartoli's "scrappiness" and "quirky play."

But Bartoli had in fact left the quirks at home in this one. Gone were the practice swings, the frantic hopping, the wild, 'tween-point bellows. She limited herself to a bit of muttering, and the occasional private fist pump after a strong point—a quiet rebuke to the crowd that, for no real reason, had decided to hate her. The easy narrative is that, with her father finally off her back, she has been able to loosen up, to make friends and enjoy the sport at which she’s so gifted, and that all that newfound social success and peace has helped her on the court—as though the rage-filled middle schooler came back from summer vacation calm, happy and popular.

From my couch, I couldn't tell if that was true. Of course I couldn’t: I was on a couch, and Marion Bartoli was there on center court alone, out of her role and very far away. Whether this is her last title or the first of many, she'll never be a star. But the mosquito has her trophy. She is a sideshow act no more. To know that is to know enough.


Share |

Comments

It was just great to get the chance to visit your website please keep me posted for more updates.Movie Box

I needed to thank you for this extraordinary read!! I unquestionably appreciating each and every piece of it I have you bookmarked to look at new stuff you post. ShowBox APK

Really appreciate you sharing this website post. Actually many thanks! Actually Cool. Many thanks ever so for you website article. Thanks Again. Really Great. Really appreciate you discussing this post. Actually thank you! Want more. fitness

This really is one great blog. Really thank you Thank you for the article. Much thanks again. Want more. Enjoy you discussing great article post. Great.
Drones

This really is one great blog. Really thank you Thank you for the article. Much thanks again. Want more. Enjoy you discussing great article post. Great.
Drones

Extraordinary post, you have brought up some magnificent focuses, I also trust this is an extremely heavenly site.https://www.scholarshippath.com/2017/12/shanghai-government-scholarship-2018.html

פרסום באינסטגרם זה הדבר הבא בעולם הפרסום הדיגיטלי Wow, great article. Fantastic.

Grammarly is a good grammar checker and you can upgrade it to premium version using best.
Grammarly Premium Discount

Actually recognize you discussing this post.Thanks Again. Fantastic. Great blog.Really looking towards study more. Awesome. wow, awesome blog.Thanks Again. Really Great.
bridesmaid dresses

travel sites I really enjoy simply reading all of your weblogs. Simply wanted to inform you that you have people like me who appreciate your work. Definitely a great post. Hats off to you! The information that you have provided is very helpful.

custom printed coffee mugs First You got a great blog .I will be interested in more similar topics. i see you got really very useful topics.

Tree removal Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which I need, thanks to offer such a helpful information here.

dentists in toronto It is great to have the opportunity to read a good quality article with useful information on topics that plenty are interested on.I concur with your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your future updates.

dresses Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which I need, thanks to offer such a helpful information here.

dresses Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which I need, thanks to offer such a helpful information here.

goldenslot It is great to have the opportunity to read a good quality article with useful information on topics that plenty are interested on.I concur with your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your future updates.

goldenslot It is great to have the opportunity to read a good quality article with useful information on topics that plenty are interested on.I concur with your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your future updates.

This is also a very good post which I really enjoyed reading. It is not everyday that I have the possibility to see something like this.. facetiming santa claus

I am always searching online for articles that can help me. There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also. Keep working, great job! jewelry

The website is looking bit flashy and it catches the visitors eyes. Design is pretty simple and a good user friendly interface. book public relations

i read a considerable measure of stuff and i found that the method for composing to clearifing that precisely need to say was great so i am awed and ilike to come back again in future.. escort beirut

Thanks for the blog loaded with so many information. Stopping by your blog helped me to get what I was looking for. iPhone 8 cases

It is basic that we read blog entry painstakingly. I am as of now done it and find this post is truly astonishing.蔡小煒

Hello, I discover perusing this article a delight. It is to a great degree accommodating and intriguing and all that much anticipating perusing a greater amount of your work.. escort ln lebanon

Incredible Article it its truly instructive and inventive update us as often as possible with new upgrades. its was truly important. much obliged. beirut escorts

Extraordinary post, you have brought up some magnificent focuses, I also trust this is an extremely heavenly site. dallas car accident attorney

This is a great inspiring article.I am pretty much pleased with your good work.You put really very helpful information. Keep it up. Keep blogging. Looking to reading your next post. beirut escort

Much thanks for keep this data. lebanon escorts

Nicorinse removes tar and nicotine from your mouth, gums, teeth, tongue and throat for better oral health and protection all year long. It might even help you quit tobacco. Dry mouth

Thank you for such a well written article. It’s full of insightful information and entertaining descriptions. Your point of view is the best among many. xender apk

Actually I am not habituate to reply a comment on blogs but this blog caught my attention and I am compelled to write a comment here to express my gratitude to you. I would like to appreciate for this awesome work.
essay writing services

Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with extra information? It is extremely helpful for me.price of brestrogen

Great post yet I was thinking about whether you could compose a litte more on this subject? I'd be extremely grateful on the off chance that you could expound a smidgen further. Welcome it! https://cheap55printing.com/blog/print-photos-canvas-cheap-2/

An intriguing dialog is value remark. I feel that it is best to compose more on this matter, it may not be an unthinkable subject however ordinarily people are insufficient to chat on such themes. To the following. Salud. 55printing.com/blogs/tag/low-cost-printed-flyers/

I truly inspired after read this on account of some quality work and instructive musings . I just wanna express profound gratitude for the author and want you to enjoy all that life has to offer for coming!. Wrap Him Around Your Finger

An intriguing dialog is value remark. I feel that it is best to compose more on this matter, it may not be an unthinkable subject however ordinarily people are insufficient to chat on such themes. To the following. Salud. Custom medals

Your content is nothing short of brilliant in many ways. I think this is engaging and eye-opening material. Thank you so much for caring about your content and your readers. Spirulina Benefits

I haven’t any word to appreciate this post.....Really i am impressed from this post....the person who create this post it was a great human..thanks for shared this with us. Relationship ebook

Once I thought about things like: why such information is for free here? Because when you write a book then at least on selling a book you get a percentage. Thank you and good luck on informing people more about it… subway surfers download

An intriguing dialog is value remark. I feel that it is best to compose more on this matter, it may not be an unthinkable subject however ordinarily people are insufficient to chat on such themes. To the following. Salud. Custom lapel pins

The data you have posted is extremely helpful. The locales you have alluded was great. A debt of gratitude is in order for sharing.. Girl is horny

An intriguing dialog is value remark. I feel that it is best to compose more on this matter, it may not be an unthinkable subject however ordinarily people are insufficient to chat on such themes. To the following. Salud. Christian Mejia

This web journal is truly awesome. The data here will definitely be of some help to me. Much appreciated!. Questions to ask

Great post i must say and thanks for the information. Education is definitely a sticky subject. However, is still among the leading topics of our time. I appreciate your post and look forward to more.mobdro download

Great work! This is the kind of information that are supposed to be shared around the net. Disgrace on the search engines for not positioning this submit higher! Come on over and consult with my website . Thank youbest weight loss pills

Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which I need, thanks to offer such a helpful information here.breast enlargement creams that work fast

It’s very important to be passionate about your topic because that will drive your commitment and the time you give to it. Appvn for Android

Puedes incluso usarlas aunque tengas el pelo corto, usar productos para el cabello para crear este tipo de mechas, estan muy de moda ahora.
http://mechascalifornianas.net/

the sport at which she’s so gifted, and that all that newfound social success and peace has helped her on the court—as though the rage-filled middle schooler came back from summer vacation calm, happy and popular.notary learning center

I definitely enjoying every little bit of it. It is a great website and nice share. I want to thank you. Good job! You guys do a great blog, and have some great contents. Keep up the good work.minecraft gratuit | free psn codes