The women’s game in tennis can struggle to get any meaningful attention, for a number of reasons connected to, and independent of, the sport itself.

Overshadowed | Women's tennis is often ignored for a number of reasons, but the treatment of Marion Bartoli rightfully caused outrage. (Image | The Guardian)

Overshadowed | Women’s tennis is often ignored for a number of reasons, but the treatment of Marion Bartoli rightfully caused outrage. (Image | The Guardian)

Having to deal with the lack of great rivalries compared to previous years, the incomparable brilliance currently on show in the men’s game, and pervasive sexism that still exists in society, it looked as though the 2013 Wimbledon Championships women’s singles final might end up being an eminently forgettable affair.

While Andy Murray‘s historic triumph over three sets in SW19 on Sunday did, and still does, dominate the headlines, I would like to make a special mention of the female winner: Marion Bartoli.

A previous finalist at the All England Club (Bartoli lost against Venus Williams), the 28-year-old surprised many by reaching the final again this year. However, her opponent, Germany’s Sabine Lisicki, getting to the showpiece match was also a shock.

In what has been an unpredictable tournament from start to finish, even the great Serena Williams was not immune to the numerous shocks that took place over the past fortnight.

Lisicki has become a fan favourite at Wimbledon, building on the goodwill that she garnered after reaching the semi finals back in 2011. Her open-hearted, emotional, joyful disposition on court endeared her to the crowds.

No psychological analysis is required to determine how the 23-year-old is feeling on court, as her thought processes are clear for all to see.

Bartoli on the other hand, tends to be a less demonstrable type. Besides her 2007 Wimbledon final appearance, she was best known for her sometimes tempestuous relationship with her coach, who is also her father.

Many felt that the relationship between Walter Bartoli and Marion was unhealthy,and that she was being suffocated by his domineering presence. Regardless, Marion had always been a staunch defender of her father.

While we should not forget that being coached by one’s father has not done Venus or Serena any harm, Bartoli decided to end the professional relationship with her father and take on a new coaching team.

And given the events of Saturday, it seems to have worked. While Lisicki admitted to allowing the occasion of a Wimbledon final to swamp her ambition, Bartoli kept her composure throughout the contest.

Her hitting, particularly off the backhand side, was tremendous, and she ended up winning in the contest in straight sets (6-1, 6-4) to secure her first Grand Slam title.

Triumph | Bartoli falls to the floor in delight after her straight-sets victory over Germany's Sabine Lisicki. (Image | The Guardian)

Triumph | Bartoli falls to the floor in delight after her straight-sets victory over Germany’s Sabine Lisicki in the Wimbledon women’s singles final. (Image | The Guardian)

As the celebrations began, the reaction from Bartoli was one of the most joyful things I have witnessed in sport all year. Looking up towards the box, where her family and coaching team were situated, she gleefully ran towards them: but to say “she ran” does not accurately describe what happened.

It would be better described as gamboling, meaning “to leap around playfully”. She gamboled towards her team, with all the abandon of a two year old in the park that has just learned how to walk, spotting her parents on the other side of the children’s playground.

Part of the group that she ran towards included her father, and they shared an embrace which showed that there was no ill feeling between the two since Marion replaced him as her coach.

However, Bartoli’s bliss was sullied by some unsavoury elements of the post-match reaction. Namely the expected but wearying bile spewed from Twitter, and numerous misogynistic tweets on the subject of her looks.

This was exacerbated by BBC presenter John Inverdale deciding it was reasonable to offer his rather crass opinion that Bartoli may have been told by her parents she was “never going to be a looker”.

“As the celebrations began, the reaction from Bartoli was one of the most joyful things I have witnessed in sport all year.”

Both Inverdale, 55, and the BBC have since apologised and it appears as though Bartoli managed not to let it ruin her enjoyment one iota. For those that thought we had reached gender equality in tennis with the overdue implementation of equal prize money for men and women, you are sadly mistaken.

Yes, Bartoli may not have what one would deem to be the ideal body type for an athlete. She lacks the muscular stature of Serena and the lithe frame belonging to Maria Sharapova. Yet I feel that this only makes her success worth celebrating even more.

Similarly, her approach is unorthodox and may even be slightly mad, but is that not wonderful? It is wonderful to see people unafraid to be themselves, even if this goes against the narrow view of what we are told an athlete, particularly a female athlete, should be.

Since her Wimbledon triumph, we have come to learn a bit more about the woman from Le-Puy-en-Velay in southern France.

Her idiosyncratic preparation, practice swings, constant bouncing around between points, and use of two hands to hit shots at all times, even forehands. These should not be looked upon with scorn, but admiration.

Can Bartoli play like Victoria Azarenka? No, but by the same token, Azarenka cannot play like Bartoli. The way she plays works for her, as does the way Bartoli trains and practices. The same is true for her body shape.

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