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Legends’ Voice – How James Bond saved Marion Bartholomew at Wimbledon

“For me, Wimbledon has always been a dream. As a child, I watched Roland-Garros and Wimbledon on TV, I watched all the matches and I saw Pete Sampras win the tournament every year. I dreamed of being like him, lifting the gold tray in the middle in front of the royal box. These images made me dream. There were images, leaving Retournac in Haute-Loire to tell myself that I might have a chance to pick up my racket bag. The corridor that takes you to Center Court, with Kipling’s finesse, etc. It was a dream that seemed never to reach me.

The first time I came to Wimbledon was for juniors. From memory It was in 2001. I was a wonder-eyed child, discovering this whole world that I had only seen on television. At that time, I was also a good partner of Julie Hallard and Ai Sugiyama, who played doubles together. Julie invited me to cook a barbecue at her house on Sunday. Her husband had set fire to the garden of their rented house. It was a kind of climbing vine. We were talking and suddenly we saw that the wine was on fire. Arnaud (Decougis) is a bit injured in the garden of the rented house! (Laughter).

I was getting all this, including the houses that the major players were renting. It was not a list that we, as a casual observer, knew. I told myself that one day I could afford to rent a house. When you are a junior, you will live in dormitories at Roehampton, a youth certification and housing facility. They arrived at Wimbledon in the morning by minibus. You’ve mixed up the Grail a bit. Show your credentials, you can play junior tournaments on real Wimbledon courts. Return to your dorm in Roehampton that evening. So this world was very close and very far. It was a very special feeling. Quickly, I got the chance to play the main draw without going through the qualifiers. There, the body of tennis scholars in the world felt real.


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In the year In 2007, my first senior year, I had a wish. I was able to win some big seeds at Wimbledon. I beat Chanda Ruby, who was top 10 in the world. Then I was on a good run. I made the round of 16 in Roland Garros for the first time, I made the semifinals in Birmingham and beat Hantuchova, I lost to Sharapova. I’ll make the semis again at Eastbourne, losing to Justine Henin. So I feel like my game is coming together and I’m confident. But I also have a very complicated picture with Flavia Pennetta from the first round. Terrible player on grass who played very flat. I have to get back to it quickly because I lost to Justin on Friday at Eastbourne, I’ll have a drive on Saturday, you’ll get your guts on Sunday and attack from Monday.

I remember I was sponsored by Nike at the time. I go to Nike’s house to collect my gift and meet Nike founders Nicholas Bartz and Phil Knight. We talk a bit, he asks me how I feel. I tell him that I played well, I won some good games but I have a very complicated table. Phil said, ‘Look, I’m staying until the end of the race, so hopefully I’ll make it on the last day.’

Everything was good during this Wimb’. When I need to finish before the rain, I finish before the rain, when I’m in a bit of a tense match and I need a break, the rain comes down on me, or to have a little tactical advice. It was the alignment of the planets. The weather was terrible. This year is the year that Nadal and Soderling played their matches in four or five days.

We have to play on Saturday. The game has been cancelled. Monday, they go forward one hour. We finished at 11:00 a.m. 7 p.m. And an hour later, I play doubles, I win! We played three games with 40 minutes of rest. There were two games with a 30-minute break. I won in three sets with a strong but growing nerve to go on a surface that suits me better than clay and win this match.

I enquiller from Tuesday. I couldn’t afford a house in Wimbledon at the time. So I stayed in Croydon for over an hour. I was at the hotel Hilton. We chose it because there is a big gym next to the hotel. I did not come to warm up at the station in the morning. I was doing a two-hour session at the gym, changing and coming to Wimbledon. I didn’t do any tennis warm-ups.

I’m going to play Richard’s niece, Michael Krajicek, in the quarterback. I won the first set 6-3. It will rain. We go to the locker room and there, I fall, I sleep for an hour and a half so I’m tired from the previous day. I couldn’t do it anymore. I got up, we continued the game and it was better. I won 6-3, 6-2 to qualify for my first semi-final against Justin Henin, I believe.

Justin is very popular. She won almost everything that year. She was undefeated again until the end of the year. She beats Serena. My chances are slim. This is my first time at Center Court. I am very impressed. At Wimbledon, there is a difference between the two different dressing rooms. You have the highest dressing room for the first 16 seeds or previous tournament winners. Separated. You have a woman there, who will wash your clothes in less than 45 minutes, iron them, dry them if you are interrupted by rain. Each has a bathtub for a post-game shower. You have your own physio. Dressing in luxury is class, you feel very privileged.

Kipling’s words, captions photos, weight of place. All of Wimbledon.

Credit: Getty Images

Then you have the lower locker room, for everything else. It is not the same treatment. There, each is a god for himself and for all. Of course, Justin, the world number one, is at the top. I down. I remember the judge coming to pick me up and saying, ‘It’s your turn.’ Carrying my bag, for the first time in my life, I passed through this famous corridor with a gallery of trophies, all clearly visible. The table with the list of awards. Martina Navratilova. Serena Williams. Steffi Graf. Pete Sampras. All these great champions who made this magical tournament. There is a famous phrase by Kipling.

There I saw in real life the film I had dreamed of thousands of times since childhood. I’m in my dream. But it’s true for the first time. I don’t want to just be ridiculous, make my match and get out of there. With my father, we tried to treat him as a normal match as much as possible. Don’t talk too much about it beforehand. Stay in normal conditions, do not change the heating times. A lot of people were asking us for tickets to the game, to be in my box. We refuse everything to catch him as easily as possible.

But it was wrong. During the first set, I took myself in front of everyone they represented. I really wanted to put all that aside, when I got back on the field, the crowd cheering, seeing the royal casket for the first time, I couldn’t breathe. Truly.

Marion Bartoli, Justin Henin’s fall at Wimbledon in 2007.

Credit: Imago

Then there was a twist of fate. I know there are honored guests in the royal box. I have been a big fan of all James Bond movies since I was little and that day Pierce Brosnan was invited to the royal box. He attended the first semi-final, the Race of Venus, then went out to cool off. I lost a bunch when he came back. And I see him come and sit in the front row next to the chairman of the All England Club. I tell myself either I’m starting to have a vision and I’m starting to get complicated or it’s him. I clearly remember saying to myself ‘count the number of balls in your hand’. I count, and I raise my head. It was still there. he was.

I started thinking about it a bit to distract myself from the show and just play it to make a good impression on Pierce Brosnan. I was like, ‘You can do what you want, Marion, but when you play on this court for at least two hours, you have to stay at least an hour and a half to see Pierce Brosnan.’ There is no question of continuing with this.’ James Bond saved me. But she freed the little girl from the ritornac, from all that weight, from the center court, from my dreams as a little girl. I played for someone who meant a lot if he wasn’t from the tennis world.

After that, we’re at 5-5 in the second set and Justin is at 15-40 on my serve. If she breaks me, she serves the match and it’s complicated. But at least I had the feeling of playing my game. I managed to save these two break points and later, I don’t know what happened, but suddenly I started playing the best tennis of my life. Everything I tried was successful. It was unrealistic. I was in the famous zone. The state of grace. I went from black to white in 45 minutes. I put 7 games in a row for Justine, who dominated women’s tennis, 5-0 in the third. I won 6-1, kneeling in the center. I say to myself ‘I did it’. I rarely experience this feeling of completeness.

The finals were tough because we finished on Friday evening and I met Venus at 2pm on Saturday. I hate to say the outcome would have been different. There is no point in replaying the game thinking that if it had been one more day I would have won. She is older than me. Best served, returned, best won. I have no problem with that.

Wimbledon, 2007 Final: Venus Williams and Marion Bartoli.

Credit: Imago

The only thing was that I didn’t have time to prepare and enjoy this finale. Friday night I did all the printing, I returned to the hotel at midnight. When the adrenaline wore off, I must have fallen asleep at 3:30 in the morning. I was in the washing machine. I woke up, it was the most important match of my life and I had no time to prepare for it.

This last one, in a way, was like a party. A lifetime achievement in which many people did not believe in French tennis. Everyone has images in their mind of my father falling into the arms of Richard Williams. But it was disappointing.

It took me a year and a half to recover from this loss. It destroyed me. Then in the midst of the changing situation, the expectations… 2008 was a bad season for the gallery. I didn’t have any more energy, I couldn’t get up with the same enthusiasm. Maybe today, we will talk about “mental health”. At that time we did not talk about such matters. It was hard because you knew you had to start all over again when you were just one game away from the dream of your life. I’ve been waiting six years for that.”

to be continued : Thursday, the second installment of Marion Bartoli’s Legendary Voice, for her win in 2013 and her win over Serena Williams two years ago.


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