Wimbledon 2014: Sabine Lisicki returns to scene of last year's heartbreak as reigning champion Marion Bartoli watches her breeze past Julia Glushko
Lisicki lost last year's final when Bartoli clinched the women's title before announcing her retirement, meaning the German had the honour of heading day two on centre court
Tuesday 24 June 2014
Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli burst into tears on her return to Centre Court before taking the best seat in the house for an occasion in which she might have played the leading role.
The 29-year-old Frenchwoman's retirement within weeks of her career's crowning glory last July means she is in London for this fortnight to offer choice analysis on television and savour the final days of her reign.
She would have opened day two of the championships on its biggest show court, the traditional honour for the holder of the Venus Rosewater Dish, but handed over to the All England Club a decision on who should take that role, and the verdict went in favour of German Sabine Lisicki, last year's runner-up.
Without reaching the heights that saw her crush Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska underfoot on a startling charge to the 2013 final, Lisicki got the job done as she fought off Ukrainian Julia Glushko, a Wimbledon debutant, by a 6-2 6-1 margin.
Lisicki had suffered a horrendous case of stage fright in last year's final when it was she who wept as the match slipped away from her.
But this time the enormity of the occasion, the warm reception of the crowd, and perhaps just a tinge of regret that a catalogue of injuries had left her unable to play again, meant it was Bartoli welling up as she took a bow before the match began.
Bartoli walked out moments before Lisicki and Glushko, and was accompanied by nine-year-old Elle Robus-Miller - a young player from the Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis in Ipswich.
The champion waved to all corners of the court before looking up and crying.
It was an appropriate occasion for Wimbledon to pay its own tribute to former British number one Baltacha, who died of liver cancer at the age of 30 on May 4, and Bartoli and her young assistant performed the coin toss before the match as they met at the net with Lisicki and Glushko.
Spectators were reminded by the court announcer of Baltacha's achievements, and many rose to their feet to acclaim the late Scot, as well as the current champion.
Baltacha is sorely missed. Many players and fans of British tennis have supported a Rally 4 Bally campaign, raising funds for the academy she founded, which hands a chance in tennis to children from all backgrounds, and the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.
Bartoli, in a cream dress and white cardigan, made a proud exit and took her place on the front row of the Royal Box, three seats along from Sir Bruce Forsyth.
Lisicki embraced the occasion and despite a high error count the 24-year-old had the greater subtlety and, when it mattered most, the better accuracy of two big-hitting players to seal the win. She has posted back-to-back match victories only once in a tough season on tour, so is clearly looking for a big improvement in that department this fortnight.
She said of Tuesday's showpiece occasion: "It's such a huge honour. It's been amazing.
"I think it was a very, very special moment.
"It was great to see Marion out there and also (the tribute) for Elena Baltacha.
"When I stepped out on court I was quite nervous today but the crowd helped me settle down quickly.
"It's such a special place to come back to."
Bartoli, who has talked up Lisicki's chances this year, would not have needed telling how special.
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