The adage ‘no gain without pain’ is quite apt for the lives of sporting professionals. Enduring the worst kind of pain, they battle through each day with wins vindicating their pain borne and losses adding another setback to the already permeating physical hurt. Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli took all the pain she could and then finally bid adieu to the game when she could take no more.
Is it surprising? Yes, it is. But as surprising as her decision’s been to the world, stepping away from the sport before physical vulnerabilities over-shadowed her achievements was perhaps the best decision that she could have taken. It’s no doubt a loss to the sport but in terms of what Bartoli’s achieved – including her first major’s title at Wimbledon – and going by her own words, there isn’t any loss to be had for the Frenchwoman.
There are a lot of adjectives that resonate about Bartoli. Competitive, gusty, fighter, unorthodox, unconventional, quirky and on and on, the list never stops. But as long as the list is, the enunciations that they bring about Bartoli’s personality are equally long and distinctive too. After her Wimbledon win, where respected BBC commentator Inverdale made an unwanted comment about her, Bartoli’s dignified riposte to the BBC veteran unveiled yet another unseen facet of hers. That of a person unfazed by rank immaturity, then whichever form it may take. Her retirement from tennis has been likewise too, a dignified exit after a long-winding and tedious battle with injuries and illnesses. There’s been no nonsense from her – her tears even more poignant for that reason – no dithering, just a plain and matter-of-fact manner in getting her reasons across.
Naysayers may look at it with aspersion, citing innumerable examples of players trying to revive and resurrect their career after having gone the retirement way, first time round. But in all possibility – even going by Bartoli’s own words – this doesn’t seem likely. The simplest reason being the well-thought nature and the timing of her announcement. Speaking of the latter first, while it may be too hard to gauge the ‘most appropriate time’ to announce impeding retirement plans for a sporting professional, Bartoli’s decision – right before the US Open – signifies her intent to clearly step away from the game while on a deserving high. For someone as fiercely competitive as Bartoli, fresh after winning a grand slam title – in spite of all the hurts and aches – pushing oneself to the limit all over again in the next big stage of the sport would have been nothing out of the ordinary. Considering that Bartoli felt – and spoke about – her constraints over-whelmed her desire and commitment to continue, that’s enough justification and reason enough to believe that she wouldn’t be stepping back on the tennis court on a professional level, under any circumstances.
Thus, though the decision might be an emotional one; the pragmatism and the objectivity with which she viewed and reviewed her case makes Marion Bartoli a stand-alone all over again. This time not because of her totally different-yet-mesmerizing game that made one take notice of her, in spite of oneself; but because of the way she stayed true to her heart rather than continue ploughing further and further, just for the sake of it. She would be remembered for her words too evoking as they were, just as she would be remembered for her two-handed tactical style that continued to baffle one and all. Like in her game, Bartoli’s retirement plans too then came as a well-kept secret, stunning and shocking everyone. She was never one for fanfare and her exit from the sport too followed the manner of her existence within the sport’s realms; interspersed however, with the heart-wrenching tangibility of her tears.