For Bartoli, a new supporter in Mauresmo
By Nicholas McCarvel
Monday, September 3, 2012
Sunday night on Grandstand, Marion Bartoli
was simply on fire. She was whizzing her two-handed groundstrokes past Petra Kvitova
, the higher seed, and fist pumping her way through a 6-0 third set, advancing to her first-ever US Open quarterfinal
, where she'll face Maria Sharapova
But while Bartoli had her father and coach, Walter, in one corner of the court, she also had newly appointed French Fed Cup captain and former top player Amelie Mauresmo cheering her on from the other side of the court.
It was a rare sight to see Bartoli, who is famously close with her coaching father, looking to anyone but him during a match, but the presence of Mauresmo was a new step for French tennis—and Bartoli.
“Amelie made Marion her first priority when she was made captain,” Carole Bouchard, a journalist for the French newspaper L’Equipe
said Monday. “She wants to try and talk to Marion about playing on the team again.”
The family Bartoli is notoriously tightly knit. Marion has kept her father on tour for years, and has not played a Fed Cup match since 2004 because the Federation does not allow outside coaches to be present during team practices. That means no Walter, and for the Bartolis, that means no Marion for Fed Cup.
But Bouchard said that Marion’s missing the Olympics this summer has France’s top player re-thinking her relationship with the Fed Cup team. Her appeal to play for France was rejected on the grounds that Marion didn’t play the minimum four Fed Cup ties between 2008 and 2012.
Instead, the world No. 11 was forced to stay home during the Olympics, the only woman in the top 12 to miss out on the London Games.
“I think she was sad, she was depressed,” Bouchard said of Bartoli missing the Olympics.
Bartoli’s quarterfinal appearance here in New York means she’s now made the last eight at all four of the majors, joining Mauresmo and Mary Pierce as the only Frenchwomen to have ever achieved such a feat. Prior to the Open, Bartoli was a mediocre 14-14 following her streak-ending win over Victoria Azarenka
She lost in the second round of both the French Open and Wimbledon.
“She was just tired. She is working hard, so hard, every day,” Bouchard noted of those few months. “Training. She trains every day and she got overworked.”
Sunday night she was working over Kvitova, pinpointing her groundstrokes into the corners, running the 2011 Wimbledon champion from side to side. Earlier this summer, the Czech had waxed Bartoli, losing just two games. Reporters after the match asked Bartoli if she was in the zone, and she replied that she didn’t want to use such a term, saying she hoped she could play the same way against Sharapova.
Maria and Marion have a similar past: both were brought into tennis and then coached by their fathers. But with Maria and Yuri, Sharapova eventually removed her dad from his coaching role, now traveling full time with a completely different team than she started with. Quite the opposite, Bartoli remains tethered to Walter, which makes Mauresmo’s presence at her match all the more surprising.
“Marion was saying that she was getting energy from Amelie during the match,” Bouchard said. “She was looking to her after points.”
At this point, there is no coaching or advising role for Mauresmo on Bartoli’s team. But Bouchard believes the French Fed Cup captain will be present at the 28-year-old’s quarterfinal on Tuesday, though not in Marion’s box.
“No, not if Walter is [in the box],” she said.
Bartoli was long greeted coldly in France by the tennis public, the same fans that had embraced Mauresmo in such a way that she wilted under the pressure there year after year. But last year, during an inspiring run to the semifinals (a round Mauresmo never reached at Roland Garros) the French gathered behind Bartoli like never before.
“They saw this player with such fight, giving her all for every match,” Bouchard said.
Bartoli demonstrated a similar fight on Sunday night, and the nearly full Grandstand crowd was electrified by her. Mauresmo even joined in on the wave at one point before the third set.
Perhaps, in the 13th year of her career, Bartoli is opening up to changing things up a bit. Walter remains her day-to-day coach and Marion’s best friend on tour. Yet Mauresmo in Bartoli’s box is a sign that things could be shifting.
“Marion is smart, she is a bright girl,” Bouchard said. “Having this relationship with Amelie, it is a good thing.”