Marion Bartoli shocked the world when she won Wimbledon last month, and she did it again less than six weeks later when she abruptly announced her retirement at the age of 28.
Wednesday night, as the final match at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati was wrapping up, Bartoli called a press conference after her three-set loss to Simona Halep in the second round.
There, through tears, the Frenchwoman announced to a small group of reporters that she had just played her last match of her 13-year career, via Sports Illustrated's Scooby Axson:
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 (regarding her Wimbledon title).
Nothing that Bartoli has been saying in press since her Wimbledon victory gave any indication that this announcement was pending. She played her first tournament since the Wimbledon win last week in Toronto, and even after pulling out with an abdominal injury, she seemed to be focused on succeeding at the U.S. Open.
"I just have to bounce back, train harder, and be ready for the US Open," she told reporters at the Rogers Cup. "That's all I can do."
In fact, her latest tweet from the Western & Southern Open was about how excited she was to be playing in the New Haven Open next week.
Bartoli was known in tennis circles for marching to the beat of her own drum. She stuck close with her father, Walter, throughout most of her career, and bought into his unconventional training methods. She tied herself to the fences during her workouts. She put tennis balls on her heels to remind her to stay on her toes.
On court, she never stopped moving. She took practice swings before points, bounced around like a maniac while waiting to return and even jittered throughout changeovers. Somehow, it worked for her.
She made the Wimbledon final for the first time in 2007, reached a career high of a No. 7 world ranking and won eight WTA titles, the most famous one being at the All England Club just last month. However, the tournament of her life seemed to take a lot out of her mentally and physically.
She said as much, via USA Today's Chris Chase: "I felt I just couldn't do this anymore."
The sudden announcement left fans, media and her fellow players in a state of shock. Nobody saw this coming.
Was actually around several French players when news of Bartoli's retirement broke. All (Mladenovic, Gasquet, Mahut, etc) totally shocked.— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) August 15, 2013
Bartoli retired??? What???— Laura Robson (@laurarobson5) August 15, 2013
Some thought it was appropriate for her to go out after the Wimbledon win, when she was on top of her game.
Others worried that she was making too rash of a decision. She's had a roller-coaster year, splitting with her father as her coach in February and struggling until she found her form at Wimbledon. Many are likely wondering if she was just caught up in the emotions right after a tough loss and the exhaustion of the past few weeks.
But most agreed that the unconventional announcement was fitting for such an unconventional player.
Marion...you did it your way....always. Allez— Patrick McEnroe (@PatrickMcEnroe) August 15, 2013
Bartoli will certainly be missed. She was a warm, friendly, feisty and one-of-a-kind athlete who was finally getting the credit she deserved. Whether it was her down-to-earth interviews with press, her dedication to her fellow players or her wonderful response to BBC commentator John Inverdale's criticism of her looks, Bartoli was the ultimate role model.
Bartoli: "I think if people ask, How is Marion Bartoli? They will always respond, She's a nice person. That's what I'm most proud of."— Beyond The Baseline (@SI_BTBaseline) August 15, 2013
Permanent or not, this announcement was confusing, emotional, heartfelt and completely unexpected—much like Marion Bartoli herself.