Tears streaming down her face, Marion Bartoli has announced she is quitting tennis at the age of 28 – a little over a month after winning her first and now probably last grand slam title, at Wimbledon.
The volatile French player, ranked No7 in the world, lost to Simone Halep in the second round of the Cincinnati Open, then said, to the astonishment of all but those close to her: "I have pain everywhere after 45 minutes or an hour of play…. It's just body wise. I just can't do it anymore. Everyone will remember my Wimbledon title. No one will remember the last match I played here."
"That was probably the last little bit of something that was left inside me," Bartoli said of her stirring 6-1, 6-4 win over the German Sabine Lisicki in this year's Wimbledon final. There was no hint then, though, that Bartoli was suffering physically to the point where she would contemplate leaving the sport that had made her briefly as famous as players with a higher profile.
It was a shame that her finest hour should be marred by an off-hand comment by the BBC's John Inverdale, who suggested her father and coach would have struggled to tell her when young that she "was never going to be a looker" and might have to work harder than someone such as Maria Sharapova.
Regardless of Sharapova's shock exit at the hands of Sloane Stephens, Bartoli was not comfortable in Cincinnati on Wednesday night and, at the end, collapsed spectacularly to a player some way distant from her in the world rankings. A hamstring injury has dogged Bartoli since Wimbledon and in Montreal last week she retired in the second set of her third-round Rogers Cup match against the Slovakian Magdalena Rybarikova, complaining there of soreness in her achilles, shoulder, hips and lower back.
Bartoli broke down at the post-match press conference. "That was actually the last match of my career," she said. "Sorry. It's time for me to retire and call it a career. I feel it's time for me to walk away actually."
If she does so, she will leave a void. There aren't many players to take on the higher gods.
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image: © marianne bevis