Bartoli back from rock bottom to the heights of final reprise

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Marion Bartoli completes her journey from rock bottom to the most prestigious match in women’s tennis today when she steps out on Centre Court to contest the Wimbledon final against Sabine Lisicki.

The Frenchwoman’s flawless progression through the championships, where she has yet to lose a set, is remarkable for a number of reasons.

Before Wimbledon Bartoli had not made it past the third round of any tournament this year, and her long partnership with father Walter as her coach had come to an end.

The professional relationship between Bartoli and her father, who gave up his career as a doctor to become her coach, has sometimes proved to be a difficult one.

Two years ago at Wimbledon, Bartoli famously ordered him to leave the Court 12 stands after becoming annoyed by his presence.

Shortly after their split in February, Bartoli admitted she found it hard coping on tour without her father’s presence.

“There are tough days when I feel very lonely... I get back to my hotel room and I turn around and say, ‘Dad’ and there is no one there anymore,” Bartoli said.

Yesterday, without explaining the precise cause of her recent unhappiness, Bartoli admitted she had gone through a particularly rough patch.

“There is something off the court, it’s private, but it kind of affected me in my mood and my results because it was a tough thing to deal with,” Bartoli said.

“I had some very low moments when I pretty much hit rock bottom. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

The sad times seem to be well and truly consigned to the past now.

She may be nearly 500 miles from her current residence of Geneva, but for Bartoli, Wimbledon feels like home.

She enjoys walks through Wimbledon Village, cooking her own food in her base for the tournament and, above all, she enjoys playing on the lush grass of the All England Club, where she made the final six years ago.

She is so comfortable in SW19 that she even found time for a half-hour nap in the locker room just before her 6-1 6-2 win over Kirsten Flipkens on Thursday.

Part of the reason behind her contentment has been the decision to bring in 2006 Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo as her coach.

“I met along this tough path some amazing people, and I am so pleased I have been able to have them on my side,” Bartoli added.

“She (Mauresmo) is helping me with the way I need to deal with my stress and energy off court. Sometimes I was losing too much energy being too focused for too long, especially a lot of times before matches. When I was going on court I was already tired.

“So she’s really helping me to cool down when I’m off court.

“We have some great fun. Everything is perfect again.”

Bartoli’s father will also be in her corner today.

“That’s vital for me,” Bartoli said. “He is a part of me, he taught me everything on the tennis court, therefore it’s to be expected that I share the greatest moments of my career with him.

“It’s inconceivable for me that he wouldn’t be there.”

Another person Bartoli hopes might turn up is American movie actor Ryan Gosling.

Bartoli famously said on her run to the final six years ago that she was stunned and inspired when spotting former James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan in the Royal Box while she was playing her semi-final against Justine Henin.

But it appears that Bartoli is not as big a fan of the current 007, Daniel Craig. “Does Daniel Craig do it for me?” she pondered before adding: “Ryan Gosling maybe.”

Bartoli’s extrovert character – she regularly shuffles, jumps, shrieks and skips between points – has made her a popular figure on the tour, but today she will not be the fans’ favourite.

Bartoli reached the 2007 Wimbledon final as a 22-year-old when she was beaten in straight sets by Venus Williams. The world No 15 is sure she is in a better position to win this time around, though.

“The last time I was so young,” Bartoli said. “Every time I came out on court during the tournament I was the underdog and this time it has been totally the opposite.

“I think I’ve been able to deal with the pressure really well and keep improving throughout the championships and keep playing better.”