Bartoli's shock return 'a huge challenge'

Frenchwoman, who quit owing to injury after 2013 Wimbledon win, to play again in March

PARIS • In a reversal nearly as stunning as her abrupt 2013 retirement, Marion Bartoli announced on Tuesday that she intends to return to the WTA Tour next season.

"It's going to be a huge challenge," the 2013 Wimbledon champion said in a video posted on her Twitter account.

"I have still a lot of practice ahead of me, but I'm hoping to be ready for March and the Miami Open.

"I'm really looking forward to be on the court again in front of you, to feel your support."

Bartoli, 33, has not competed in the sport for more than four years.

She stunned the tennis world by retiring at 28, only a month after her Wimbledon title, tearfully saying she was done immediately after losing a second-round match in Cincinnati.

"That was actually the last match of my career - sorry," she said at the time, citing chronic pain as her reason for retiring.

Though comebacks by Grand Slam champions in women's tennis seem de rigueur - Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin and Lindsay Davenport are examples - Bartoli was adamant in 2013 that she would not return.

Marion Bartoli with the Venus Rosewater Dish after winning Wimbledon in 2013.
Marion Bartoli with the Venus Rosewater Dish after winning Wimbledon in 2013. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

  • 1 Grand Slam title Marion Bartoli has won - Wimbledon in 2013. Her only other Grand Slam final was at the same tournament six years earlier, losing to Venus Williams.

"I'm not like that," she told the French media in 2013. "I won't come back. It's done." She held firm in a 2014 interview with The New York Times, saying: "I don't change my mind." But by 2015, Bartoli was polling her Twitter followers about a potential return.

In her video announcement on Tuesday and in an interview with Eurosport UK, Bartoli said she was particularly excited for the French Open, Fed Cup, Wimbledon and the Olympics.

She was the last French player to win a Grand Slam singles tournament, and is the only one to have lifted a major title since Amelie Mauresmo won Wimbledon in 2006.

Bartoli was a player with myriad idiosyncrasies both on the match court and practice court, including elaborate pre-service rituals and a hammering, two-handed forehand.

And although she had established herself as a dangerous player, her lone Grand Slam title came with a bit of luck.

Ranked 15th in 2013, Bartoli took advantage of a chaotic Wimbledon draw, never dropping a set in the seven matches she played against opponents ranked below her.

In the final, she beat Sabine Lisicki 6-1, 6-4. She would play only three more matches after that.

"I had to stop because of my shoulder, which was really heartbreaking," she reiterated in the interview with Eurosport UK.

Since retiring, Bartoli has designed clothing and jewellery, and has worked as a broadcaster in both English and French.

She dabbled in some athletic endeavours, most recently competing in the women's invitation doubles at Wimbledon this year with Iva Majoli. She also ran the 2016 New York Marathon.

Bartoli has also struggled with her health. Last year, after dropping to an alarmingly low weight, she said she contracted a virus during a trip that made processing food, as well as even touching certain things, difficult.

She appeared healthier this year, though still far from the fitness required of a touring professional.

Bartoli will have to work her way back up through the rankings when she returns in under three months' time, although she is likely to be helped on that route by wild cards.

NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2017, with the headline 'v'. Print Edition | Subscribe