Wimbledon: The Sloane Ranger Will Ride Again

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Sloane Stephens’ was the last American standing at this year’s wild Wimbledon—until today, when she lost a tight two-set match to 2007 finalist Marion Bartoli. Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

By Bill Simons

THE SLOANE RANGER WILL RIDE AGAIN: Sloane Stephens is young, sassy, entertaining, and has a feel for the big stage. For six straight Slams, she’s created waves. She is one of just three players to have beaten Serena Williams this year. She heads the Sloane Generation of bright up and coming Americans. On Wimbledon’s second Tuesday, she was Sloane alone—the only American singles player left in town.
But she fell short against a savvy veteran, Marion Bartoli, in the quarterfinals. Losing 21 of 26 points on her serve in the second set is a stat that will sting for a while.
Sloane is just 20, and a young 20 at that. Sure, she recently said, “I can do whatever I want.” But on this day, her sass and swagger collapsed. She could not do the most basic thing in pro singles: hold serve.
Still, the bright, athletic L.A. girl holds the future of American women’s tennis in her considerable hands.
Does she have a weak record against top 20 players? Yes. Did she have a bad day at the office? Sure, we all have them. But “hi yo,” Stephens remains in our hearts: the Sloane Ranger will ride again.

MARION BARTOLI’S BOND CONNECTION: Sometimes you just feel like Marion Bartoli is off in her own (probably rather wonderful) world.
Her dad, a medical doctor, forced her to train in their French provincial town in the snow. His methods were unconventional. Okay, they were rather bizarre. Most tiny towns love their doctors. But the townspeople didn’t like him. The family was all but run out of town.
Later the French Federation didn’t like the Bartolis. There was a hefty feud. And to this day, Bartoli is different, an eccentric character. She has more hops than Budweiser Lite. She has more hitches then a Alfred Hitchcock plot.
As for classic strokes of beauty, forget it. Lunge and blast is this gal’s mantra. That will be two hands off of both sides, and— dare we note—one of the most unusual bodies in the game. Eponymous she’s not.
Coming into Wimbledon, we knew that Bartoli loved grass, was a great returner with flat shots, and possessed her very own intense style. And yeah, she had beaten Justine Henin to reach the ’07 Wimbledon finals, and had taken down Serena Williams in two sets at The Championships two years ago.
But this year, her results were modest. She had been sick, withdrawing from the Birmingham warmup. With her unorthodox strokes and clunky movement, she was back to being regarded as the poor man’s Monica Seles, without much of a grunt or a chance to reach Wimbledon’s final stages.
But after a 6-4, 7-5 win over Sloane Stephens today, here she is, a semifinalist once again. Bartoli’s father has come back into her camp, sort of. She is happy that things have healed with the French Federation—she is pals with 2006 Wimbledon champ Amelie Mauresmo, who also kind of did things her way, and as France’s Fed Cup coach, has brought her into the fold and become her  advisor.
Today, Bartoli drew upon her experience to overwhelm a talented kid, a green rookie at second-week Wimbledon: Sloane Stephens. Throughout the match, Stephens seemed on the edge of taking control, but she lacked Bartoli’s fierce inner conviction.
Yes, after Bartoli called for the match to be suspended near the end of the first set, the usually sedate fans actually booed her. What’s next, Wimbledon, moving to the Bronx?
Ironically, interacting with the courtside fans here once helped Marion mightily.
When she was struggling in the ’07 Wimbledon semis, she looked up to the Royal Box and who was there? None other than James Bond actor Pierce Bronson. According to Bartoli, this celebrity sighting helped motivate her to turn things around and score a surprise win over Justine Henin. After her win against Stephens set her up for another semifinal appearance, we reminded her of the incident.

Inside Tennis:  Back when you were making your great run to the [2007 Wimbledon] final and had your win over Justine Henin, you told us then that you looked up and there was Pierce Brosnan cheering you on.  You said, ‘If he’s here, I have to play better.’ Who would be the one celebrity you’d like to be here for your semi?

Marion Bartoli: Well, actually we have an appointment with Pierce in the final. We ended up taking the same plane from Heathrow to LA. He recognized me. I don’t know how, but it happened.
We [were] kind of having a chat around a glass of champagne and we came up with a meeting for the final of Wimbledon, so I’m one match out of that meeting.
He really helped me to somehow take some pressure off, [so I was] not really thinking about the situation: where I was; against who I was playing. [I thought] ‘Just focus on him.’  It was really kind of a way to relax. [It] kind of worked really well.

IT: Marion, it sounds like you are saying that sometimes it’s almost an advantage to have some kind of  distraction?
MB: Yeah, I have some weird motivations sometimes … but somehow it’s working. I can’t tell you all of them, but sometimes it’s a bit crazy. It’s a good way for me to somehow take the pressure off and just focus on something else.

On this day, Bartoli focused on winning , so just maybe we will see two James Bond actors in the Royal Box this weekend: Pierce Bronson for Bartoli; and the most famous 007, the Scot Sean Connery, who adores his countryman, a lad named Andy Murray.

THE TWO DRIEST SENSES OF HUMOR IN THE HISTORY OF TENNIS: Andy Murray and his coach Ivan Lendl.

SAY WHAT?: The Wimbledon draw was supposed to feature a Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer quarterfinal. Instead their spots were filled by Poles Lukasz Kubot and Jerzy Janowicz.

SLAMLESS WONDERS: The amazing all-Euro lineup—Agnieszka Radwanska, Sabine Lisicki, Marion Bartoli, and Kirsten Flipkens—in the women’s Wimbledon semis means that it’s the first time since the 2010 French Open that the final four surviving competitors have not yet won a Slam.

NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT: Before Flipkens dispatched No. 8 seed Petra Kvitova in the quarters today, the average ranking of her foes at the tournament was 98.

JUST WONDERING: Do too many players, like Agnieszka Radwanska, use medical time outs to turn matches around?

MUMMY DEAREST: After noting that she was sporting many bandages, a BBC broadcaster told Radwanska, “From the bottom you looked like a mummy, so much wrapping.”

THE OLD MAN AND THE ROAR: The announcement on Court 1 that John and Patrick McEnroe would soon be playing a doubles match drew a huge roar.

GO FIGURE: Security guards at Wimbledon open and hold doors for you.

HEADLINES:

STRAWBERRIES AND CREAM
WIMBLEDON SHOWS NEED FOR HUMAN INPUT EVEN IN A DIGITAL AGE
PATRIOTISM. GOOD MANNERS. COURAGE. NO WONDER SPORT -HATERS LIKE ME LOVE WIMBLEDON
HERE COMES THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE OF LAURA’S LIFE
SEIZE THIS SHOT AT HISTORY
MAD FOR MURRAY AND ROOTING FOR ANDY
ANDY’S ON HOME RUNE
I CAN WRECK YOUR DREAM
DJOK AND AWE FOR CHARDY

I WON’T STOP UNLESS I CAN’T HOLD A RACKET

CURSE STRIKES ON TEARFUL ROBSON

SERENA SLAIN IN BIGGEST UPSET OF ALL

OUT WITH A SHOUT

CRY AND MIGHTY
AN ICKI THUMP
WHITE KNUCKLE RIDES ARA A PANIC OF THE PAST
ROBSON EXITS BUT WILL RETURN AND CONQUER
I BROKE THE LAUR AND THE LAUR LOST
CRIED AND JOY
USA RELY ON SLOANE RANGER
ANDY CALMS MOM’S NERVES
RAD NOW IN POLE POSTION

JUST WONDERING: What are the odds that a player, in her four last visits to Wimbledon, would defeat the standing French Open champion each time? Sabine Lisicki did just that, beating 2009 Roland Garros winner Svetlana Kuznetsova, 2011 victor Na Li, last year’s champ Maria Sharapova, and this year’s clay queen, Serena Williams.

A LOW, DEEP, OMINOUS GROAN: The Centre Court crowd’s reaction when Serena Williams is called for a foot fault.

A GREAT WIMBLEDON FOR SEA CREATURES: Mardy Fish hasn’t been on hand, but it has still been a wet and wild Wimbledon. First, Belgian Steve “The Shark” Darcis got 15 minutes of fame when he upset Rafa Nadal. Then Kirsten Flipkens—or Flipper, as she is nicknamed—reached the semis.

QUOTEBOOK:

“Because I lost and I was just trying not to cry.”—Laura Robson, on why she left the court with no special farewell to fans after losing.

“It’s been a return horror story out here.”—Eurosport, on the weak returning games of Petra Kvitova and Carla Suarez Navarro.

“Thomas is out fluttering about for a strategy that probably doesn’t exist.”—Radio Wimbledon, on Thomas Enqvist‘s preperation for his senior match.

“I’m so happy. I don’t even have tears.”—Kirsten Flipkens.

“She has been with me through the good times and the bad.”—Flipkens, on Kim Clijsters.

NOW THAT IS PREMATURELY GRAY: Broadcaster Mary Rhodes said, “I thought Todd Martin was gray in 1950, but he’s even grayer now.”

OUR FAVE NAME: Thailand’s Wishay Trongcharoenchaikul.

LET THE REVOLUTION BEGIN: In the late ’60s, when Rod Laver won Wimbledon he received about $3,500. Billie Jean King won just over $1,000. This year, the gentleman’s and ladies’ singles winners will score $2,437,000 each.

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