The relief was there for all to see as Marion Bartoli’s fine season was rewarded when she landed the AEGON International title on Saturday.
Bartoli was runner up at Indian Wells and Strasbourg recently and also reached the semi-final of this year’s French Open. But the long awaited victory finally arrived for the Frenchwoman with a 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 against Czech Republican Petra Kvitova after 2 hours and 19 minutes on a blustery centre court.
The victory was all the more special for the Bartoli as she had lost out at the semi-final stage on her four previous visits to Eastbourne.
Her path to the final was not without it’s problems and her stay in Eastbourne looked to be a brief one. In round one Bartoli saved a match point against Lucie Safarova before gaining victories over Martinez Sanchez and third seed Victoria Azarenka to reach the semi-finals.
After claiming the trophy and the £63,500 winner’s cheque she said, “Thank gosh. I have had a great start to the season and I have been pleased with my results but I hadn’t won a title.”
The match up between the world number eight and Kvitova, the world number nine, was always expected to be a close encounter.
Although it didn’t quite reach the epic three-hour mark that saw Russian Vera Zvonerava oust Serena Williams earlier in the week, it certainly provided some brave tennis for the windswept centre court fans.
The final was made all the more difficult as the players had to play their semi-finals in the morning due to Friday’s washout.
Bartoli overcame Australian Sam Stouser 6-3, 6-1 while Kvitova progressed through to the final when Daniela Hantuchova retired with an abdominal strain whilst trailing 6-7(9), 2-4.
The Czech fifth seed took a tight first set 11-9 on the tie-break and went an early break up in the second set before the unseeded Slovakian was forced to withdraw.
Bartoli added, “I had to fight for it, playing two matches back to back in the same day, I’m not used to that anymore, it reminds me of my junior time.
“She (Kvitova) was hitting the ball very hard and very deep, but at the end it was just fighting and trying to find a way to win.”
“It’s great to come up with the win. It’s an extremely tough tournament, with seven of the top 10 players competing.”
The pair raced through the first set 6-1, only for Kvitova to hit back in the second before Bartoli served it out at the second time of asking in the decider.
Bartoli added, “It was very tough to play in those conditions but it’s the same for both players. It’s been a great season for me so far.”
Top seeds take doubles crown
In the women’s doubles the title went to the top seeds Kveta Peschke & Katarina Srebotnik after they beat second seeded Americans Liezel Huber & Lisa Raymond 6-3, 6-0 in the final on court one.