To say that Wimbledon 2013 was an odd tournament is a vast understatement; it was one of the strangest, wildest, most upset-filled championships in years. After the dust settled, however, the two players left standing were the perfect champions for an event so bizarre: Andy Murray, the first British man to hoist the trophy at the All England Club since Fred Perry in 1936, and Marion Bartoli, a Frenchwoman with an unorthodox playing style who became the first woman in the Open Era to win Wimbledon without having to face a single player ranked in the top 10.
Murray, the second seed in the tournament, beat top-seeded Novak Djokovic in straight sets, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4, in a championship match that was closer than the final score would indicate, full of long, impressive rallies. It wasn’t anywhere near the classic that some expected in light of their Australian Open final match earlier this year, but it was hard-fought, with the final game of the match seeing Djokovic, who seemed to still be exhausted by his semifinal battle with Juan Martin del Potro, fight back from triple match point to keep Murray on his toes. When it was finally over, when the crowds that had filled the stands at Centre Court and gathered all across London and the rest of Great Britain to cheer on one of their own all erupted in celebration, Murray looked more relieved than thrilled.
It was a streaky match for both players, with Djokovic building 4-1 and 4-2 leads in the second and third sets, respectively, before Murray mounted comebacks. It was a great display of the improvements that Murray has shown under coach Ivan Lendl. His second serve, once a weakness in his game, was fantastic on Sunday, keeping one of the best return hitters in the game on his toes throughout. There were no signs of the back pain that forced him out of the French Open in May, and his court coverage was as good as it’s ever been. Despite having the weight of Great Britain on his back, the Scot stayed composed and ended one of the most frustrating championship droughts in all of sports.
On the women’s side, the final between Marion Bartoli and Sabine Lisicki was one that few, if any, could have predicted. Nine of the top ten seeds were out of the field before the semifinals had even rolled around. Lisicki was in her first-ever Grand Slam final. Bartoli has an unorthodox, high-energy style that sometimes doesn’t lend itself well to the modern game (she leads the women’s tour in double-faults) and who was coming off a year that saw her fire her father, who had been her coach since she was a child. However, it was a fittingly odd matchup of unique players at the end of such an odd tournament, and Bartoli made it look easy, beating a visibly rattled Lisicki 6-1, 6-4.
Simply put, Bartoli’s style worked. Her powerful two-handed technique was too much for Lisicki and any of her other opponents to handle. Against passive players like Sloane Stephens, she went on the offensive to overpowering degrees. Some may point to her relatively easy path through the draw as reason to put an asterisk of sorts next to her title, but it’s not as though she came completely out of nowhere; she has been a top-20 player for almost a decade. She clearly has the composure required of a top player, as evidenced by her cucumber-cool response to a sexist remark by BBC commentator John Inverdale. Once an outsider, she is now a champion, and the women’s tour is a much better place with a player and personality like Bartoli making waves.
Up next for the two is the US Open in New York starting on August 26th. Murray will look to defend his title, and Bartoli will look to prove that her first Grand Slam title was no fluke. It’s been a fantastic year for tennis thusfar, especially in the Grand Slams, and the final leg shows every sign of continuing the trend.