Marion Bartoli: The Frenchwoman literally sprang into the tennis public’s conscious in 2007 when she advanced to the Wimbledon final with a quirky, bouncy service motion that upset Justin Henin in the semifinals and gave Venus Williams trouble in the championship match.
Strengths: Bartoli not only plays with double handed strokes on each side of the baseline like Monica Seles did, but the 28 year old also attacks the ball off the ground, hitting it as early as anyone on tour. With strong anticipation, Bartoli is one of the best returners in the game, taking a whack at any second serve that is likely to blow by her opponent. Her focus and ferocity – as demonstrated during a solid run to the US Open quarterfinals last year – have kept her in the mix atop the game.
Weaknesses: While Bartoli has greatly improved her fitness over the last half decade, the Frenchwoman is still not the fastest girl on tour and can often be wrong footed, further debilitated by shorter reach because of her two-fisted strokes. And while many have lauded her father and coach Walter for his unorthodox approach to Marion’s game, others have pointed that the veteran’s inability to separate from dad has stunted her growth as a player and a thinker on court.
Opportunities: While Bartoli has held a top 20 ranking for all of the last five years, she’s only been to the second week in Melbourne just once: the 2009 quarterfinals. A strong to finish to 2012 that included the US Open quarterfinals and Beijing semifinals means that Marion will be motivated to start off the year with a deep run at the Australian Open. And, frankly, when she’s on, she can contend with the top of the crop – Serena Williams included.
Threats: Her year was noted for her upset of Petra Kvitova in New York and her streak-stopping victory over Victoria Azarenka in Miami, but it was a subdued effort overall from Bartoli, who went 14-15 during one stretch and finished 41-25 for the season. Marion now needs to be careful in earlier rounds, where she has uncharacteristically lost to lower-ranked players over the last 12 months.
Mary Joe Fernandez, former world No. 4 and tennis analyst:
“Marion does her best when the pressure is on. She plays her best at the majors. She’s one of those players who has gotten the most out of her talent. Her serve has become more of a weapon and she really goes after her opponent’s second serve. If her timing is good it’s not easy to break her. With Marion, she has the power off of both sides and hitting with two hands, she can create angles that no one else can produce. She’s been around for years, so it’s all about being fresh and eager coming into the Australian Open. A lot of people think you should move her around the court, but she anticipates really well. It’s deceptive. She actually moves really well.”
Keep checking australianopen.com for more previews of Australian Open 2013 contenders in the month leading up to the tournament.