Finally, the favourite lost. But today's 2013 Wimbledon Ladies Championship final wasn't like anything before.
Marion Bartoli and Sabine Lisicki had never won the Cup before. Both were nervous. Finally, what mattered was, who got over the nerves first, and kept the momentum going. And it was Bartoli, the better player, who hadn’t lost a single set in the entire tournament.
My favourite though was Lisicki. Because she was playing excellent tennis; she wasn't ready to lose, the quiet fighter, who likes to come from behind when all seemed lost. The route she took to reach Centre Court today is a testament to her grit, tenacity, resilience, and above all, her tennis. And what an achievement for her to be as close to winning the cup, as she was today.
Bartoli may not have beaten Serena Williams or Agnieszka Radwanska. That went to the credit of her opponent Lisicki. But the French champion too was etching a similar route on another side to reach the Centre Court.
Bartoli was cool, she seemed to be more in control of her emotions, and her nerves. Why not, she was there, at the Centre Court, battling for the coveted Venus Rosewater Dish, six years ago. She knew what it was like to be at the last mile.
As the match got off to a start, it very much looked like it wasn't Lisicki's day. It was the French girl who seemed to be holding on. One clear indicator was the body language. Bartoli had been there before and it showed. She pumped her fist in the first set as if she was well and truly on her way to the Cup. Lisicki looked defensive. She served some powerful aces and forced Bartoli into unforced errors with a few breathtaking crosscourt volleys. But many of her shots were long. And she went down 1-6 in the first set in 30 minutes flat.
In the third game of the second set, the first point Bartoli won wasn't actually hers. It was wide. It was clear to the naked eye and it was clearer from the Hawk's eye. But Lisicki, already rattled by the way the first set went, missed the chance to challenge it. I thought, that was a crucial turning point.
Still, the 2nd set gave Lisicki hope. She was holding on. But, suddenly, she collapsed into a bout of double faults. And, in a scene, one wouldn't see very often in a Championship match, in the fifth game of the 2nd set, Lisicki hid behind the racket strings and dissolved into tears. That said it all. And I thought that was it.
But, there was an unbelievable flicker of hope. When all seemed lost, Lisicki was playing some excellent tennis. There were some stunning aces; and the placements and the volleys were just right, and getting her the much-needed points. I wondered why couldn't she have come up with those before. She even saved two Championship points. Commentators were beginning to talk about what could be one of those unprecedented comebacks in the history of Wimbledon!
But it was too little, too late.
For a second time, Bartoli served for the match and got it. 6-1, 6-4. And, again in a scene, which we may not see very often, Lisicki broke down during the customary post-match interview, unable to complete her sentence. But she had summed it up rightly: she was overwhelmed by the occasion.
Finally, as any sportsperson would know, it's not the game alone that matters, but it's the emotions and nerves too. All along, Lisicki seemed to be the player who had that edge, who could surprise with the power of her serve and the accuracy of her shots. But Bartoli was the more experienced, who played better tennis, who strategised for the winner, who kept the cool, who had emotions in control, who seemed to know it all.
Well done, girls, Marion and Sabine. All-England Club has a new champion. Congratulations, Marion Bartoli.