Today, during Tennis Channel's coverage of the knock-down drag-out between Marion Bartoli and Olga Govortsova in Paris, Martina Navratilova went on and on (and on some more) about poor Marion, and how sorry she feels for poor Marion, what with father Walter's odd training regimen and Marion's constant movement during matches. Navratilova even went so far as to say that Caroline Wozniacki's father, Piotr--unlike Walter Bartoli--would be happy to step aside and let Caroline have anyone she wanted as a coach.
Earth to Martina! First, two so-called coaches have left the Wozniacki camp because Piotr wouldn't butt out. And comparing the two players just doesn't work for me. One is a 30-year-old maverick who doesn't seem to care (bless her) what anyone thinks, and who goes about things in her own strange and wonderful way. The other is--well, not Marion. I've never thought of Bartoli as being under any kind of spell; clearly, she does prefer to have her father coach her. And--despite all the fuss--he's done a pretty good job. As Bartoli herself is happy to point out--she's not a natural athlete, but she she turned into a pretty good, if unconventional, tennis player.
Today was one of those days when Bartoli was going to win even if she collapsed during the handshake. We saw this from her when she defeated Flavia Pennetta 5-7, 6-4, 9-7 in the third round of Wimbledon in 2011 (my favorite match of that tournament), and when she went crazy on Petra Kvitova in the 2012 U.S. Open round of 16. Today's Bartoli show lasted three hours and twelve minutes, and was, in Andrew Lilley's words, "a microcosm of her entire career to date."
There were several rain breaks in the 7-6, 4-6, 7-5 match, and those rain breaks made me think of Wimbledon in 2007, when Bartoli would take a nap while it rained, then wake up and go destroy whoever had been beating her before the storm began. Whether she did that today, I don't know, but I like to think she did.
Govortsova played really well, and had the match on her racket on more than one occasion. The third set was as exciting as anyone could hope to see. Bartoli, repeatedly making one-handed swings, saved two match points at 3-5. She then broke Govortsova and suddenly, it was the Frenchwoman who was serving for the match. The final game lasted fourteen minutes, and Bartoli won on her fifth match point.
Bartoli played from behind far more than she played from a leading position. But isn't that the way Bartoli likes to do it? She pumped her fist, she shadow-swung. At one point, toward the end, the Frenchwoman actually shook her entire body all over several times (and people can say what they want about that, but the full body shake is a good strategy because it provides both physical energy and mental calmness at the same time). She did the Bartoli Glare. It was Marion at her scary finest.
The down side (other than what had to be tremendous disappointment for Govortsova) is that the players double-faulted 21 times between them. That, too, we have come to expect.
Next up for Bartoli is Mariana Duque-Marino, who defeated Kristyna Pliskova 6-2, 6-0, and it took her just an hour to do it.