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Bartoli the Hummingbird

Updated on July 14, 2013

Wimbledon Ladies Singles 2013

Nicknames for sports stars don’t seem to be as common as they once were. The women’s Wimbledon final this year in 2013 was between two unlikely finalists, yet to be prominent enough in the game for many people to even think of coming up with a nickname for them. Despite not being household names a quick look into the history of the two players made it clear that there was still going to be a fascinating story behind whoever would become champion.

Sabine Lisicki had charmed the crowds throughout the championships with her dazzling smiles, a few tears, a stylishly powerful game that is easy on the eye and by creating the massive upset in the fourth round by beating Serena Williams. Her being a popular and powerful German had caused some to come up with the nickname of ‘Doris Becker’.

On the other hand Bartoli had got to the final about as unnoticed as anyone ever had, she took advantage of upsets in her part of the draw without ever causing one herself. I think even Marion herself wouldn’t claim you can describe her play as ‘stylish’, being double handed on both sides as well as lacking any sort of balletic graze associated with the movement of so many top players over the years.

When it came to the final Lisicki was now thrust into the role of favourite, due to her more impressive route to the final, extra power and better movement. It would have made such a great story for her to become Wimbledon champion just a few years after an injury had rendered her unable to walk. Unfortunately her emotion, that had made her so likeable and been able to allow her to conjure up amazing come from behind wins against Williams and in the semi final against Radwankska, on the occasion of the final hindered her performance rather than helped it. From the start she looked like the enormity of the occasion had caused her to forget how to play a game she normally excels at. It is to her eternal credit that she dragged herself from the brink of a full on emotional breakdown on centre court, to win three games in a row from 5-1 down in the second set and threaten to produce another brilliant fight back. That spirit will definitely stand her in good stead and gives her an excellent chance to win at least one major championship in her career.

Instead the final chapter of the story of the Women’s championships at Wimbledon in 2013 belonged to Marion Bartoli of France. From humble beginnings of an indoor court with a broken roof, she doesn’t look like she has read too many tennis textbooks. Her ungainly looking double-handed swings on both sides mask a phenomenally accurate baseline game when at her best, with no little amount of power. When serving she doesn’t do anything either to convince you she is a naturally gifted tennis player. It is perhaps her movement around the court where she looks most far removed from being a tennis star. When she ran over to the players box to celebrate her victory her running style was more akin to that of a child coming in around seventh place in a primary school sports day than that of Wimbledon champion. Whilst all these deficiencies and unorthodoxy will probably stop her ever becoming a tennis superstar or one that will be popular with crowds around the world, perhaps her success in spite of all these things should make her one of the most admired sports stars in the world. I would nickname her ‘The Hummingbird’, it is said that Hummingbirds wings aren’t big enough or strong enough to support their body and make them fly, yet they ignore the commonly accepted knowledge and keep flapping away until the do indeed fly. Bartoli has taken the unconventional route to being a Wimbledon champion, including ignoring several ‘experts’ telling her she can’t succeed swinging a racquet and moving around a court the way she does. Fortunately for her, just like the Hummingbird she wanted to find out for herself if she could fly to the heights of Wimbledon champion.

To read sample chapters of my published book ‘Spirit of ‘55’ based on life as a Warrington Rugby League fan, their season in 2012 and sporting ‘curses’, and links on where to buy it, you can follow this link:


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