The relationship between female players and their fathers who coach them can be an uneasy one. Marion Bartoli and her father, Walter, are as close as any family team on the tour, but even their relationship was put to the test on Saturday. Furious at losing the first set against Flavia Pennetta, Bartoli told both her parents to leave the court. Their departure seemed to have the desired effect as the world No 9 rallied to win 5-7, 6-4, 9-7 after a three-hour marathon and earn a fourth-round meeting today with Serena Williams.
"I was so tired and exhausted that really I had to express my emotions somehow," Bartoli said by way of explanation. "I saw my parents right after the match and they understood completely. It was not against them. It was just that we played a very long first set and I was exhausted. I was feeling worse and worse.
"I needed to get my frustration out, so I showed it that way. I could have broken a racket. It would have been the same. I think it was just a matter of releasing the frustration and starting again. I normally never act like that. I felt at this point that I had to get all this frustration out and start again. I think they understood me pretty well, being my parents for the last 26 years."
Bartoli's father watched the rest of the match on television. "He said it was the best match he had ever seen me play here," the Frenchwoman said. "He was very proud of me, and my mum was the same."
Four years ago, Bartoli produced one of the biggest shocks in the history of women's tennis when she beat Justine Henin in the semi-finals here, only to lose to Venus Williams in the final. She has never quite matched that feat since – in her next 14 Grand Slam tournaments the best she could manage was a quarter-final appearance at the 2009 Australian Open – but has been on a roll this summer.
After reaching the French Open semi-finals for the first time, Bartoli warmed up for Wimbledon by winning the title at Eastbourne, where she played her semi-final and final matches on the same day because of rain earlier in the tournament.
Given that her last two matches here have gone to three sets, it was no surprise that she was feeling drained after her victory over Pennetta. "I don't know if it's fatigue from the French Open and Eastbourne and everything but I've not been feeling very good," she said.
"At the end of the match when I walked out of the court to the locker room I had to sit down for five minutes because I wasn't able to see clearly any more. I was extremely tired. I really had to finish this match somehow. I really don't know how I did it. I used every single bit of energy I had in my body to find a way to win."
Bartoli's father was a doctor until he embarked on a mission to turn his then 16-year-old daughter into one of the world's top 20 players. Walter is a self-taught coach who introduced his daughter to tennis when she was six. The fact that she now likes to take the ball early from inside the baseline is a legacy of the days when she played on a particularly small court in her home village in the Haute-Loire region, where there was only one metre between the baseline and a wall. Despite Saturday's contretemps, Bartoli gives her father much of the credit for her success.
"If I'm playing that well now it's because we've been a real team and we work well together. I wouldn't be there without him. It's teamwork. Because it worked out today like that doesn't mean it's going to work every time," she said.
"My Dad has really helped me through a lot of my matches. In Eastbourne we played some really tough matches as well and he really helped me to find a way to win again."Reuse content