Chanda Rubin squandered a first set lead of 5-0 to lose in straight sets to the unheralded Marion Bartoli, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, in a first round Ladies' Singles match. The popular American, playing in her 12th Wimbledon, appeared to be strolling off with the match before her 84th ranked opponent from France turned the contest on its head.
Rubin, seeded 17, kept Bartoli waiting on Court 11 for more than ten minutes before she arrived for the match, but after that lost no time in getting down to business by racing to a morale-crushing 5-0 lead. But once the Frenchwoman got her name on the scoreboard she fought back to 5-5 with two service breaks of her own. Come the tiebreak Rubin patted a forehand into the net to give it to Bartoli by seven points to five.
Rubin is one of those players who seems to have been around for decades, and indeed it is 14 years since she made her Grand Slam debut at the US Open, at the age of 14. Much of her career seems to have been a tussle with injury, and her ranking has see-sawed correspondingly. Yet she managed to finish 2003 on a career-high year-end ranking of number nine at the grand age of 28, which makes her, Martina Navratilova aside, of course quite an old lady around the lawns of SW19. Today she was giving away the best part of nine years to her French opponent.
Moreover, Rubin is certainly one of the most lauded players in the game, having won no end of gongs and prizes for being a jolly worthy person. She has been named the Player Who Makes A Difference, won an Arthur Ashe Leadership Award and an Outstanding Celebrity Award, been pronounced one of America's Most Caring Athletes, and even had her face on stamp issued by the US Postal Service in 1996, which makes her something akin to royalty. Certainly tennis royalty, in any case.
Bartoli, a former US Open junior champion who ranked as high as 45 last August, is coached by her father Walter. He must be a busy man, since he also works as a doctor. But he has certainly found time to train his daughter to be a fighter.
Games went with serve in the second set until Bartoli broke for 5-3. Given her chance she needed no extra bidding. She took the match at the first time of asking when Rubin sent a forehand wide.
Written by Kate Battersby