MASON, Ohio – Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli shocked the tennis world when she abruptly retired Wednesday night. Bartoli, 28, tearfully announced her decision in a news conference after losing to Simona Halep 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 in the second round of the Western & Southern Open.
“Well, it’s never easy, and obviously there is never a time to say it or whatever, but that was actually the last match of my career,” she said. “It’s time for me to retire and to call it a career. I feel it’s time for me to walk away actually.”
Bartoli cited injuries as the primary reason for her retirement. After winning her first Grand Slam title last month at Wimbledon, she took a month off before returning to the tour last week in Toronto, where she retired from her third-round match with an abdominal injury.
“I’ve been already through a lot of injuries since the beginning of the year,” Bartoli said. “I’ve been on the tour for so long, and I really push through and leave it all during that Wimbledon. I really felt I gave all the energy I have left inside my body. I made my dream a reality and it will stay forever with me, but now my body just can’t cope with everything.”
Bartoli, who won eight titles and peaked at No. 7 in her 13-year career, said she would rather go out on top than struggle to compete while less than 100 percent. That would be dishonest, she says, and unfair to the team that has supported her.
“After Wimbledon, when you ‑‑ it’s hard to explain ‑‑ but when you dreamed about something for so long and you have been on the tour for many, many, many years and you have been through up and downs and high and lows and already a lot of injuries since the beginning of the year, my body was really starting to fall apart,” she said. “And I was able to keep it together, go through with a lot of pain throughout this Wimbledon, and make it happen.
“That was probably the last little bit of something that was left inside me. It’s fine I have the right to do something else as well. I’ve been playing for a long, long time, and it’s time for me now. It is.”
Bartoli admitted that she hasn’t had time to think about what she’ll do next.
“There are so many things to do in life rather than play tennis, so I’m sure I will find something,” Bartoli said. “I just need a bit of time to kind of settle down.
“It’s been a tough decision to take. I don’t take this easily. I mean, I’ve been a tennis player for a long time, and I had the chance to make my biggest dream a reality. I felt I really, really pushed through the ultimate limits to make it happen. But now I just can’t do it anymore.”
Bartoli was a top-20 stalwart for more than six years. Her father, Walter, who coached her for her entire career until earlier this year, modeled her two-fisted game after that of Monica Seles. Articulate, thoughtful and endearing in her quirky on-court tics, intensity and enthusiasm, she made her first major final at Wimbledon in 2007. She famously beat Justine Henin en route to the final, where she lost to Venus Williams. Six years later, she won Wimbledon without dropping a set.
“Everyone will remember my Wimbledon title. No one will remember the last match I played here,” Bartoli said.
After losing to Halep on Wednesday night, Bartoli called her father to inform him of her decision.
“I said, ‘You know what, dad, I think it’s my last one,”’ Bartoli said. “And he said, ‘I kind of felt it. I kind of knew it somehow. I can see it in your eyes and see your body and know all the work you have done to make it happen. I’m so proud of you. I will support you in anything you’re doing.’
“So of course it’s a hard decision to take, but I don’t think there should be a time or should be a match or should be something when you can say you have the right to retire and not the right to retire. At the end of the day, I’m the only one who has been doing what I did for 22 years.”
Asked what she was the most proud of, Bartoli reflected on the friends she’s made throughout her career.
“I think being the same person, being honest, being loyal to my friends, to my teams, to the people who have been helping me along the way, the people who are working with us throughout the years,” Bartoli said. “I always respect them. I always respect everyone. 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.”
Earlier this week, Wimbledon champion Andy Murray spoke of his respect for Bartoli’s Wimbledon win and her career.
“She’s a really, really nice girl,” Murray said. Very down to earth. She’s very chatty. She’s quirky. She’s quite different than a lot of the players on tour. She obviously worked extremely well to get to where she’s got to.
“I think the best compliment you can give someone as an athlete is that I think that she’s reached her potential, and that’s all you can do. She’s got everything out of her game that she can, and it’s great to see. She deserves everything that she gets. She’s a really, really hard worker and she’s a really nice girl.”
At the player hotel in Mason, Bartoli’s colleagues rushed to the televisions around the lobby when she made her announcement, straining to hear what they all couldn’t believe. They were all in shock.
“I thought she was crying because she lost,” one player said. “She’s going to regret this. You can’t make such a life-changing decision after a loss.”
There were signs that Bartoli knew she had reached the zenith of her career. Before the tournament, she told reporters, “I feel like if I have to retire by tomorrow because something happened to me, I would be able to say that I have done everything I wanted to do and this is the best feeling ever.
“What I’m so proud of is to see the eyes of my dad when I won,” she said then. “He told me, ‘Marion, you can lose every single match you’re going to play. I don’t even care anymore. What I care for you is you get married, you find a nice husband, and that’s it.’”
For now, the short-term plans are a private birthday party in October, which she says her favorite musician, Bob Sinclar, has agreed to DJ.
“My dreams now are outside of tennis,” she said before the tournament. “It’s different. When I’ll be retired, it’s to have a nice family, to have a nice husband. But tennis-wise, I achieved my dream.”