Bartoli bows out after epic three-hour duel with Paszek

Marion Bartoli pictured: Jane Stokes
Marion Bartoli pictured: Jane Stokes

It was a bad day on Centre Court for Marion Bartoli as she suffered a shock exit at the hands of world number 59 Tamira Paszek to end her reign as AEGON International champion.

Bartoli had looked the strongest competitor left in the tournament after reaching the semi-finals without dropping a single set.

However, the 21-year-old provided an unexpected challenge for the world number 9 and her dogged determination got the better of the reigning champion in an epic three-hour contest in unbelievable winds.

It was a see-sawing first set, with Paszek breaking Bartoli’s serve twice but the Frenchwoman breaking back on three occasions to take it 6-4.

Losing the opening set did not phase Paszek though and she immediately bounced back to take the second set, which again saw five breaks of serve but this time, three were in favour of the young Austrian.

It was the first time Bartoli had dropped a set on her quest to retain her title and things did not improve for the world number nine after she strained a muscle in her leg in the third set.

She received medical treatment and returned to the court with her left thigh swathed in tape and bandages.

Her limp was evident as she failed to hold her serve for the second time in the third set and Paszek went on to win the match and secure herself a spot in the final against Angelique Kerber.

Paszek said, “I’ve played in winds before but I think that will be unbeatable for my entire career.

“I’m just really happy to be in a final. I love Eastbourne, the people here are great and my entire family are here so it feels like home.

“Going in to this tournament I’d only won two matches all year so this is great for my confidence. I’m so happy to be fit and healthy and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”

Bartoli also had a lot to say about the conditions. She said, “I would toss the ball and it would go two metres behind me.

“It was very difficult to focus in those conditions and now I feel exhausted both mentally and physically.”