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Tennis | Wimbledon

Bartoli makes unique Wimbledon finalist



As Marion Bartoli curled up to sleep on a sofa in the Wimbledon locker room, it was hard to believe the French star was just minutes away from one of the biggest matches of her life.

Throughout her career, Bartoli's game has been marked by bizarre routines, most notoriously her series of jumps, skips, shuffles and twirls of her racquet as she prepares to serve and return.

But taking a 30-minute nap just before her third Grand Slam semifinal was unique even by the 28-year-old's standards.

Outside, Wimbledon's hallowed Centre Court was buzzing in anticipation of her clash against Belgium's Kirsten Flipkens, but 15th seed Bartoli had decided now was the time for a snooze.

When she awoke, Bartoli proceeded to rout Flipkens 6-1, 6-2 in just 62 minutes to clinch her second Wimbledon final appearance, against Germany's Sabine Lisicki on Saturday.

"I just said to Vic the physio to wake me up just in case," she laughed. "I actually woke up by myself and went to a warm-up. That's just the way I am."

Bartoli has never been one to do things the easy way.

She grew up outside the tennis mainstream, coached by her father Walter, a doctor who had no background in the sport and yet gave up his job to teach his daughter how to become a professional.

Walter constructed home-made contraptions to help with her practice sessions, while her court positioning inside the baseline is a legacy of her days learning the game in the Haute-Loire region of France on a tiny court.

Her run to the final has vindicated her decision to cut ties with her father and employ 2006 Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo as her new coach earlier this year.

With Bartoli's results on the slide and her father conceding she might benefit from a different voice, she made the emotional decision to hire Mauresmo and the improvement in her game is now clear to see.

It helps that Bartoli has always been able to keep her life on court in perspective.

"I've always been someone who loves to smile and have a laugh. Of course sometimes you have sad moments but I've had a great run here and right now I'm smiling even more," she said.

Her imperious march to the Wimbledon final without dropping a set is a marked contrast to her route in 2007.

Then Bartoli reached her only Grand Slam final as an unheralded 18th seed, losing to Venus Williams in straight sets only after causing a huge shock with her semifinal victory over then world No 1 Justine Henin.

In true Bartoli fashion, she said she had turned the Henin match around after seeing the former James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan in the crowd and feeling that she could not play so badly in front of him.

Now six years on, Bartoli returns with far more experience and belief she can win the title.

"The last time I was so young. I was the underdog every time. This time I was the highest ranked player in every match," she said.

"I have dealt with the pressure really well. I'm doing everything better, hitting the ball harder and moving faster than I was six years ago.

"If I played myself six years ago I would win quite easily I think."

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