I hope actor Pierce Brosnan, who is mourning the recent death of his daughter, found some small joy this Saturday morning when he heard that Marion Bartoli had won the Wimbledon title with a dominating 6-1, 6-4 victory over Sabine Lisicki.
I firmly believe that if Pierce Brosnan hadn’t been sitting in the royal box, or wherever he happened to be when his mere presence inspired Marion Bartoli to up her game versus Justine Henin in the 2007 Wimbledon semifinal (she lost to Venus in the final), we probably wouldn’t be looking at Marion Bartoli, 2013 Wimbledon Champion this weekend. As Sabine may have the pleasure of discovering for herself some day, it takes the perspective of someone who’s been there before to show as much poise, focus and determination during a final on Centre Court.
But forget all that noble stuff for a second and let’s marvel: Marion beat the shit out of Sabine Lisicki! I mean, WOW. It was a few match points shy of being a double bread stick horror show. Honestly, I think everyone but Bartoli felt as shocked as Sabine, who spent most of the match wearing the vacant, disbelieving expression of someone who’d just been mugged. I imagine Serena, watching from bed in her Paris pied a terre, tossing aside her croissant in favor of pen and paper. Note to Laquanda: This is how ass kicking is done.
Yes, of course Sabine had the tougher draw and the more impressive wins over the likes of Serena and Radwanska, but no one remembers the draw when reading down the list of gold lettered champions. It’s Marion’s name on that wall from now until, well, the world ends or there is no more Wimbledon (whichever comes first).
And Marion is worthy. I’ve always enjoyed the way Marion can take on most anyone with the acute angles of her two fisted game – she has career wins over quite a few top players, including Justine Henin, both Williams sisters, Victoria Azarenka and Kim Clijsters. But I’ve also felt a kind of sick fascination in my belly whenever I’ve watched her play – the awkward serve, the jittery on court behavior, the way her hair seems forever in her eyes- well, she’s just so weird.
“I’ve never been afraid of being special, never,” Bartoli said on Saturday via the NYTimes. “I think it’s kind of boring to be like everyone.”
Marion’s always been a bit different, a bit outside the WTA lockerroom. I doubt Serena sees her at the “cool parties”, even in Paris, and in the past the media has described her relationship with her Daddy Coach as having a distinct Us vs. The World (and the French Federation) dynamic. But now she has Amelie Mauresmo in her coaching corner and a less tortured smile on her face. Oh, and a Wimbledon trophy in her house, which has probably been cleared of all Federer posters now. But hopefully that note from Pierce is still pinned up somewhere.
The fact that we can giggle along with Marion’s school girl crushes shows just how refreshingly free she is of that hard plastic coating that many of the top tennis pros sport so stylishly. She lets us in to that supposedly brilliant mind of hers, and despite that high IQ, most of us can empathize. Marion is as real and unpretentious as any Wimbledon champion can be. I couldn’t help but cringe in empathy as I watched her wander around the clubhouse and environs after the match was over – greeting tennis hoi polloi and assembled adoring crowds while clutching the Venus Rosewater Dish and a balled up towel. “Put down the towel, Marion!” I yelled at the television, thinking of every bad picture I’ve ever taken in my life. Well, I’m sure someone will make sure she doesn’t bring it to tomorrow’s ball.
To close my celebration of all things Marion, I want to bring up some comments that I would, normally, not want to publicize any more than they already have been. But it’s Marion’s response to the nonsense that matters.
Some pre-match “analysis” by BBC commentator John Inverdale (the BBC later apologized for them):
“I just wonder if her dad, because he has obviously been the most influential person in her life, did say to her when she was 12, 13, 14 maybe, ‘listen, you are never going to be, you know, a looker.
“‘You are never going to be somebody like a Sharapova, you’re never going to be 5ft 11, you’re never going to be somebody with long legs, so you have to compensate for that.
“‘You are going to have to be the most dogged, determined fighter that anyone has ever seen on the tennis court if you are going to make it’, and she kind of is.”
Marion’s response: “It doesn’t matter, honestly. I am not blonde, yes. That is a fact. Have I dreamt about having a model contract? No. I’m sorry. But have I dreamed about winning Wimbledon? Absolutely, yes.“
We’ve all dreamed of winning Wimbledon, haven’t we? Marion’s actually done it. Eat your heart out, 007.