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Beauty is in the eye of the holder of the Wimbledon trophy

THE reigning champion slipped the diaphanous blouse from her shoulder, revealing a sliver of tanned flesh.

Marion Bartoli is now happily retired from tennis. Picture: EPA
Marion Bartoli is now happily retired from tennis. Picture: EPA

It was a moment that would have caused even John Inverdale to swoon.

Marion Bartoli has no future at Wimbledon as a player. But she has a past. It includes the winning of the championship last year, enduring injuries that subsequently forced her to quit, and being the subject of an infamous observation by Inverdale, the BBC commentator.

"Do you think Bartoli's dad told her when she was little: 'You're never going to be a looker. You'll never be a Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight?' " he told the world.

Bartoli was the humble and forgiving champion yesterday. "We actually have a very good friendship," she said of Inverdale. "We just talked briefly about 'the situation' before, saying he actually made a comment that he was not supposed to do, that he didn't mean it, whatever, whatever."

She was was keen to emphasise that last year was about winning of the Venus Rosewater dish rather than the listening to the Inverdale comments and their aftermath.

"It was all about making my dream a reality," she said of participation in what was to be her last major tournament. "That was all I was caring about. Just me having this pure joy inside me. I didn't really reflect at all on his comments. It didn't affect me at all. I was just happy to have this trophy in my hand. You could have told me David Beckham is waiting for me outside the room. I would say: 'I don't care because I just have the trophy'."

The victory over Sabine Lisicki in straight sets was described by the champion as "a miracle". More than a decade at the top of the women's game had extracted a price in pain and injury with back, shoulder and ankle problems combining to make every day a trial.

Asked if she had regrets about quitting in the wake of her greatest triumph, she pulled her blouse from her shoulder to reveal the blue tape that is still necessary to address damage caused by decades of playing tennis.

"Look at my shoulder. Literally I can't even lift my arm every morning," she said. "It was the same last year and it hasn't improved a year after, even without playing much tennis. So definitely no regrets at all. I totally moved on into something different. I just launched my shoe line three weeks ago during the French Open. I am designing jewellery, too."

Her first and only major was achieved with an ace on the last point and Bartoli admitted with a smile she only watched that moment on YouTube every two days. She has a photograph of the trophy on her phone and looks at it daily.

She misses the adrenaline rush of the moment of triumph but she knows that the entry price to this theatre of dreams became too high. "I don't miss every morning having to wake up and not being able to lift my arm; having my whole body terribly sore; having to travel; pack and unpack; all the practice time you have to book; making sure you're just having your schedule ready. Everything has to be ready every single day," she said.

But she can look back without remorse because she made everything of her career. Coached by her father for 22 years before Amelie Mauresmo, now coaching Andy Murray, became an influential part of her team, Bartoli was known for an all-consuming appetite for practice and for improvement.

"It was not heavy for me. I was so driven," she said. "I was ready to do everything I need to do in order to fulfil my dream. I was extremely fortunate to do so last year, especially in this magical place.

"It's just an absolute privilege to be a Wimbledon champion, and it's like it's almost better than me. You know, sometimes people ask me: 'Who are you?' I just say: 'I'm the Wimbledon champion'. It just speaks for itself. I don't even need to mention my name."

Bartoli's emergence as champion last year was a surprise but there is the opportunity for a new generation to make an impression this year. Maria Sharapova, winner of the French Open , comes in to the tournament determined to repeat her victory of 10 years ago at the All England Club. Serena Williams, despite doubts about her form accentuated by defeat at Roland Garros, arrives as favourite. But Sharapova is 27 and the American is 34.

Baroli believes Liscki could make another final but is impressed by the younger generation and their attitude. Eugenie Bouchard, the 20-year-old Canadian, Madison Keys, the 19-year-old American, Sloane Stephens, the 21-year-old Floridian, and Garbine Muguruza, the 21-year-old Spaniard, all lurk in the draw. Simona Halep, the runner-up at Roland Garros, is 22.

"The new trends is that these youngsters are coming out and are not afraid to beat the big players, the established players. When you see Serena going out 6-2, 6-2 to Muguruza in a grand slam, that's really not something we're used to seeing maybe five or 10 years ago. A top player might go out in tough matches, very tough matches. Not 6-2, 6-2, not like that."

She added of the clutch of younger players: "They're really coming out fearless and they believe every time they're on the court they're going to beat whoever is on the other side of the net. They're just kind of coming out and saying: 'Well, we're good enough and we're going to show the world'."

Bartoli found this self-belief difficult to create and to hold on to in turbulent times. She praised Mauresmo for her ability to instil her with a faith that bolstered her game and then gilded wonderfully with a Wimbledon victory

"Amelie gave me this extra confidence that I really needed in terms of knowing that I could win the match," she said. "Sometimes that's what I was lacking. I was kind of doubting myself in terms of whether I'm good enough to actually beat my opponent, whether I'm good enough to deal with the situation."

She would then look at her box and Mauresmo would give her a look that Bartoli said could be encapsulated in the phrase: "Everything's just going to be all right."

It was at Wimbledon 2013.

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